Story at a glance

  • Congress wants to crack down on drunk driving fatalities and included new rules for car manufacturers.
  • Baked into President Biden’s infrastructure plan, the legislation wants new technology developed that will monitor and prevent drunk or impaired driving.
  • Some automakers, like Volvo and Nissan, have already begun testing technology to limit drunk driving.

Congress is hoping to mandate car manufacturers to implement drunk and impaired driving prevention technology as part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Every day about 28 people in the U.S. die of drunk driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2019, a little over 10,000 Americans died from drunk-driving crashes.

The estimated economic cost for alcohol-impaired driving in 2010 was $44 billion.

Congress is trying to change those fatal statistics by imploring car manufacturers along with NHTSA to implement new driver safety standards. The legislation outlines what it would like new technology to look like, including passively monitoring the performance of a driver to identify whether or not they may be impaired. 

It also suggests preventing or limiting cars from operating if an impairment is detected and enabling cars to detect a driver’s blood alcohol concentration.


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The bill gives NHTSA the authority to finalize these new technology rules within three years. It also gives automakers at least two years to produce and manufacture the technology.

The advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released a statement in support of the legislation, with its president Alex Otte saying in a statement, “On behalf of the 1 million victims of drunk driving that MADD has served, I want to thank our legislative heroes in the House and Senate who fiercely fought for us and said these tragedies must stop.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that alcohol-detection systems could prevent more than a quarter of U.S. road fatalities and save upwards of 9,000 lives a year. 

Alcohol has been a factor in 30 percent of U.S. roadway deaths every year for the past decade, and some car manufacturers have already begun implementing technology to address the issue.

In 2019, Volvo announced it would install in-car cameras and sensors to monitor drivers for signs of intoxication and distraction, according to CNBC. Nissan also previously announced it had developed a concept car that had multiple drunk-driving preventative features. That included built-in alcohol sensors on it’s shift knob that could detect a driver’s perspiration while driving, a camera that analyzed a driver’s state of consciousness through signs of drowsiness and a system that could sense if the vehicle was drifting out of its driving lane.

However, according to The Washington Post, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation sent a letter to NHTSA in January raising concerns over camera-based systems to detect drunk or impaired driving that said, “New technologies, especially those intended to provide a safety benefit, are subject to much scrutiny. When such technologies impact the autonomy of the driver, they require broad public acceptance.”


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Published on Nov 10, 2021