Feds want alcohol-detection technology in all new cars

Erik Mclean UnSplash

The agency is working to collect information on the available technology to implement these features into cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working to put a law into effect that would get drunk drivers off the road. 

The agency wants to put alcohol-detection technology in all new passenger vehicles. In preventing drunk and impaired driving, the efforts would effectively save thousands of lives across the country. 

“It is tragic that drunk driving crashes are one of the leading causes of roadway fatalities in this country and far too many lives are lost,” said Polly Trottenberg, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking we are announcing today is the first step toward a new safety standard requiring alcohol-impaired-driving prevention technology in new passenger vehicles.” 

Taking the first steps

As Trottenberg explained, the NHTSA has submitted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement alcohol-detecting technology into passenger vehicles. This is the first step required to eventually have the rule turned into federal law. 

According to the Advanced Notice that NHTSA submitted, there is a great opportunity to make lasting change across the country with more widespread implementation of this technology. 

However, the agency also pointed out some of the current roadblocks. The current technology isn’t designed for drunk and impaired driving detection; there are issues differentiating between varying states of impairment; false positives and general immaturity of the technology. 

With all of this in mind, NHTSA has identified new technologies that could be improved upon to work in these specific cases, including monitoring systems that would prevent drivers from shifting their cars into gear if they're over the legal alcohol limit. 

The goal now is to get as much insight into the available technologies as possible and determine if such features could be implemented into cars on such a large scale. This process – of the proposed rule becoming a law – can take several years. 

The official submission goes into great detail on the country’s history with drunk driving, the definition of impaired driving, current efforts to curtail drunk driving, and more. 

A nationwide problem

The announcement of the new rule comes during December, which has been dubbed National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. According to NHTSA’s data, drunk and impaired driving is a nationwide problem on several levels. 

The agency estimated that alcohol-related injuries, fatalities, and property damage cost the U.S. roughly $280 billion per year. 

On top of that, the number of lives lost as a result of drunk driving continues to be a cause for concern. The most current data comes from 2021, a year in which over 13,300 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

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