This measure was proposed in the Inflation Reduction Act
Drunk Driving reportedly caused almost 13,400 deaths in the United States in 2021.
Many questions remain about how this proposed mandate could be implemented.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has submitted an advance notice of proposed rule-making in order to gather more information about impaired driving prevention technology.
This is because included in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the U.S. congress last year was a provision for the federal agency in charge of vehicle safety to determine the most effective way of dealing with drunk driving.
Despite efforts to raise public awareness over the dangers and consequences of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, deaths related to impaired driving still totalled close to 13,400 in the United States alone in 2021.
In addition to this high number of lives lost, drunk driving cost society $280 billion in medical expenses, wage losses, and reduced quality of life, not taking into account property damage over the same period.
To fight this issue, the NHTSA wants to mandate technologies that can detect the driver’s blood alcohol level in all new cars on the American market.
Few details are known at the moment about the details of the proposed legislation or how such a law would be applied and enforced. Reports show that breathalyzers and light-based systems are being tested at the moment.
Questions also remain over the reliability and effectiveness of the proposed technologies since current anti-drunk driving measures imposed on some drivers who have been found guilty of impaired driving have proven to be quite finicky.
Reliability is obviously a major concern if these systems are to be fitted to every new car on the market. Indeed, if it is undesirable for them to fail in a way that could let a drunk person take the wheel, they should not leave sober drivers stranded as soon as a sensor plays up either.
Of course, those who are in the habit of driving while under the influence will most likely look for workarounds that would defeat the purpose of these systems altogether.
This situation is not without similarities to the time when the NHTSA mandated seat belt starter interlocks on all 1974 model-year cars in the United States in an effort to increase belt usage. Those who didn’t want to wear a seatbelt disabled the system by themselves and thus this technology only served to inconvenience those who did wear their belt. Starter interlocks were abandoned the following year.
It will be interesting to see how the NHTSA plans to mandate anti-drunk driving devices to achieve a reduction in deaths and injuries while being as non-intrusive as possible.