The United States Congress has drafted a new requirement for carmakers: find high-tech solutions to stop drunk drivers in their tracks. Here’s what you should know.
Safety by 2026
This new regulation is part of a wave of spending bills that target road safety in light of escalating road fatalities. According to the legislation, monitoring systems should be rolled out by 2026 after the Department of Transportation approves the technology used to stop drivers from driving drunk.
The effort to eliminate drunk driving will cost an estimated $17 billion – the largest increase in funding for a public safety program since FDR’s New Deal. Ultimately, lawmakers expect these efforts to change the way we drive and move around our cities. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he expects more green space and safer bike paths in the future.
Why Is New Technology Necessary?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported over 20,000 traffic collisions in the first half of 2021 – the highest half-year total since 2006. NHTSA officials are concerned about what this upward trend could mean for road safety. In general, drunk driving accounts for 30% of all traffic fatalities, which means higher numbers = more drunk drivers.
Many convicted drunk drivers use a breathalyzer device attached to an ignition interlock that stops the ignition if the driver has a high blood alcohol content (BAC). Breathalyzers are testing devices with a tube at the top that the driver blows air into to test their BAC. When attached to an ignition interlock, the driver must breathe into the tube before driving to start their vehicle.
Ignition interlock devices are very effective in stopping potential drunk drivers, but Congress wants a passive monitoring system to be a part of new cars. They haven’t specified what technology they want and have left it to automakers, but something that monitors driver behavior would fit the expectation.
Does This Technology Already Exist?
Ignition interlocks are not passive testing methods, but there are ways to monitor driver behavior. Major carmakers are already using cameras and driver-assist systems to evaluate the driver’s behavior to warn the driver or pull over.
These monitoring systems include the integration of “self-driving” technology that has become a part of many new cars on the market. Some automakers have agreed to also install rear-seat alert reminders to warn parents if they inadvertently leave their child in the car.
Will Drivers Be Able to Afford These Cars?
Most people hold on to their cars for years and can’t afford to buy a new automated car fresh off the assembly line. These cars could come at a steep price, which would make them inaccessible to millions of drivers around the United States.
Until these cars are made, it will be difficult to say how accessible they will be. Until then, drivers must follow road safety guidelines and avoid driving drunk.
What You Can Do Now
These new regulations for cars are years away from implementation, but that doesn’t mean police will stop arresting people for drunk driving. Until driver-assist programs are available in every new car, you may need legal support in the event of a DUI.
If you are arrested for a DUI, contact West Virginia’s premier DUI attorney, Harley Wagner. With two decades of experience and a successful track record, Attorney Wagner can provide legal guidance you can trust.
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