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Anti-Drunk Driving Technology Mandate for Automakers in New Infrastructure Bill

President Biden's huge infrastructure bill includes $17 billion for auto safety, the largest ever road safety program funding in decades. Under the legislation, a mandate requires automakers to install anti-drunk driving technology in all vehicles to prevent drivers from driving while inebriated. A new monitoring system ought to be rolling as early as 2026, following an assessment by the Transportation Department for the best form of technology. Indeed this package will mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving.

Advancement in technology to eliminate drunk driving behavior and prevent alcohol-related crashes is long overdue. Although drunk driving is illegal in every State, the United States loses life in an alcohol-related crash every 52 minutes. According to the NHTSA, drunk driving claims nearly 10,000 lives, approximately 30% of traffic fatalities each year. The annual economic cost of drunk driving-related accidents is estimated to be roughly $194 billion.

Current Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving

The government introduced several federal programs to help address the critical traffic safety problem of alcohol-impaired driving. Despite all the countermeasures taken, the percentage of drunk driving crashes has remained essentially unchanged in recent years. Four basic strategies used to reduce alcohol-impaired accidents include:

  • Deterrence: establish, promote, enforce, and adjudicate rules against driving while intoxicated so that individuals do not choose to drive drunk;
  • Prevention: Reduce drinking and drug usage, and keep drunk drivers off the road;
  • Communications and outreach: increase public awareness of impaired driving hazards and establish positive social norms that make driving while intoxicated unacceptable.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment: minimize alcohol dependency or addiction among drivers.

Some existing effective countermeasures to reduce alcohol-impaired driving are listed below:

  • Administrative License Revocation or Suspension (ALR/ALS) - Administrative license suspension (ALS) regulations empower law enforcement and driver licensing agencies to suspend a driver's license if they fail or refuse to undergo a breathalyzer test.
  • Publicized Sobriety Checkpoints - Law enforcement officers stop vehicles at a predetermined location to see if the driver is drunk at a sobriety checkpoint. These checkpoints discourage people from driving after they've had too much to drink by raising the perceived risk of being arrested.
  • High-Visibility Saturation Patrols - A saturation patrol (also known as a blanket patrol or specialized DWI patrol) consists of many law-enforcement officers who monitor a specified region looking for intoxicated drivers.
  • Breath Test Devices - Breath test devices proved quite accurate and reliable to measure a driver's breath alcohol concentration (BAC). A drunk driver blows into a mouthpiece, and the breath test device displays his BAC level to the officer.
  • DWI Courts - DWI offenders are prosecuted, sentenced, monitored, and treated systematically and coordinated by a specialized DWI court. According to a systematic review, DWI courts tend to reduce recidivism effectively.
  • Alcohol Problem Assessment and Treatment - A DWI arrest allows authorities to identify offenders with alcohol addiction issues and direct them to treatment if necessary. Alcohol rehab for DWI offenders is available in every State.
  • Alcohol Ignition Interlocks - Alcohol Ignition Interlocks are highly successful in preventing alcohol-impaired drivers from starting a vehicle. A post-start retest necessitates the driver's continued sobriety behind the wheel.
  • Lower BAC Limit for Repeat Offenders - All States now have an illegal per se BAC limit of .08. Lowering the BAC limit for repeat offenders emphasizes that they should not be driving after drinking even moderate amounts.
  • Minimum Drinking Age 21 Laws - All states have set Zero-tolerance laws for drivers under 21 and have a BAC limit of .02 or lower. These regulations strengthen the minimum drinking age of 21 statutes in all states, making it illegal for anybody under 21 to buy or possess alcohol in public.
  • Alcohol Screening and Brief intervention - Alcohol screening and brief interventions in medical facilities have been shown in several studies to minimize drinking and self-reported driving after drinking.
  • Mass-Media Campaigns - Mass media campaigns consist of intensive communications and outreach initiatives and are a standard part of every State's attempt to minimize alcohol-impaired driving. These public awareness initiatives linked to a 13% reduction in alcohol-related wrecks.

Despite strict drunk-driving legislation, we have not totally eliminated drunk driving. The government, traffic safety activists, and automakers are encouraged to develop a new anti-drunk driving technology to prevent intoxicated drivers from driving.

What New Bill On Anti-Drunk Driving Technology Entails

The new infrastructure bill's anti-drunk driving technology clause does not specify which technologies NHTSA should explore. According to the brief, the final product should "passively monitor" a driver to "accurately determine" whether that driver is impaired to drive the vehicle safely. The NHTSA will be in charge of evaluating the viability of different alcohol-detection technologies and issuing final standards within three years. Automakers would then have 24 months to comply with the new regulation after that period.

The new requirement may include one or more of the following technologies: driving-performance monitoring, driver monitoring, or alcohol detection to prevent those under the influence of alcohol from continuing to operate a vehicle. Few automakers like General Motors, Nissan, and BMW have already begun installing infrared cameras that scrutinize driver behavior.

Virginia continues to prioritize the health and safety of its inhabitants with its "Driven to Protect" initiative to develop anti-drunk driving technology. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program has advanced exploring two different technologies for future vehicles: a touch-based and a breath-based system. Right now, this DADSS is promising for fleet operators implementing a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for their drivers. Schneider joins Driven to Protect in Virginia and will equip eight of its cabs with the latest breath sensors as part of this new trial deployment in 2022. The data collected on hundreds of real-world operating miles will help refine the technology and its use in other vehicles.

Kalfus & Nachman have been standing up for the rights of drunk driving accident victims in Virginia for more than three decades. We applaud the inclusion of anti-drunk driving technology provision in the Infrastructure Bill by Congress. Our dedicated attorneys and team members will continue to support Virginia state's efforts in this paradigm shift to eliminate drunk driving.

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, contact our Virginia drunk driving accident lawyers at Kalfus & Nachman PC today! Schedule your free consultation at 855-880-8163

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