New Technology in Infrastructure Bill Aims to Tackle Drunk Driving
Drunk driving claims the lives of hundreds of people every year in Virginia and thousands in the United States.
Although police departments have stepped up their traffic enforcement efforts in recent years, alcohol-related deaths remain unacceptably high. In 2020, 272 people died in drunk driving accidents in Virginia, a 3% increase over the previous year, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
However, a new technology mandate in the infrastructure legislation promises to open up another front in the battle against drunk drivers.
New cars would be required to have technology to stop intoxicated people from driving under a mandate Congress approved as part of the sweeping infrastructure bill. This step could significantly reduce one of the leading causes of crash-related deaths, reported MSN news.
The measure is part of a move by the Biden administration to implement a multibillion-dollar initiative to reverse a recent rise in road deaths and overhaul federal safety efforts.
Notwithstanding years of intense police enforcement, traffic deaths and injuries remain high. Drunk drivers are a major cause of deaths and injuries on our roads.
MSN noted over 10,000 people lost their lives in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Campaigners against drunk driving argue new technology promises to bring that number down dramatically — and that it’s required at a time when once-declining death rates have plateaued in the past 10 years.
Alex Otte, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, argued the new technology could be a game-changer that practically eliminates the scourge of drunk driving.
The new mandate is one of several sweeping road-safety measures in the infrastructure bill recently passed by Congress.
The legislation also calls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require automatic braking for vehicles and the largest trucks. Another safety measure is a revamp of vehicle safety ratings. The legislation would require in-vehicle alerts to help stop children from being left in overheated cars.
The bill also seeks to tackle dangerous roads. It would revamp the design of roads, providing millions of dollars for designs that prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Increasing numbers of pedestrians are dying on the highways of America
The measures intended to tackle drunk driving may have the greatest impact on road deaths. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded new vehicle technology could cut road deaths by 9,400 annually if deployed across the nation. Lawmakers believe the new technology could be fitted in cars as soon as 2026.
The technology has similarities to ignition interlock devices used for DUI offenders but it would be more passive, according to experts. The bill requires government agencies to finalize the technology within three years. Carmakers would be given at least two years for production.
NHTSA has been collaborating with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), an industry group, since 2008 on new systems to discretely detect alcohol on drivers’ breaths or in their blood. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety project entails the testing of sensors in partnership with a Virginia transportation company.
MSN News stated a second option would be the increased use of cameras that monitor drivers for signs of impairment, building on systems that carmakers use to ensure drivers don’t lose focus behind the wheel.
While many road safety advocates are pleased with the infrastructure bill, some do not believe it goes far enough. MSN quoted Cathy Chase, executive director of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, who warned some measures are written in a way that could mean some requirements could be delayed.
She said midsized trucks — the kind used more and more often to make deliveries in residential areas — are not included in the automatic-braking requirement and the bill only calls for alerts for drivers to check back seats, rather than systems to check whether a child has been left behind.
As Virginia-based personal injury lawyers, we see the horrendous consequences of drunk driving every week. We welcome any measures to tackle this awful problem. If you or a family member has been hurt by a drunk driver please contact us today at (757) 231-5014.