With in-car tech.
Ever since the first car hit the road, drunk drivers have been an issue. This scourge on society has become so bad that, according to the NHTSA, more than 10,000 people die on average per year due to alcohol-related incidents on our roads. Alcohol-related road deaths have declined in recent years, partly thanks to increased car safety, but the numbers have hit a plateau, and now the federal government is placing pressure on the NHTSA and the private sector to figure out how to cut deaths and save lives.
As part of the push for fewer drunk drivers on the road, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends that the NHTSA enforce passive alcohol detection or advanced driver monitoring systems.
The NTSB's recommendations come after an investigation into a horror crash that took the lives of nine people, including seven children, in 2021 in Avenal, California. According to the NTSB, the driver who caused the accident was under the influence of alcohol at the time.
"Technology could've prevented this heartbreaking crash, just as it can prevent the tens of thousands of fatalities from impaired-driving and speeding-related crashes we see in the US annually. We need to implement the technologies we have right here, right now, to save lives," said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy.
The agency is asking for the implementation of active and passive systems to monitor and limit drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol. In 2021 the federal government told carmakers to eliminate drunk driving and looks to pass a $1 billion infrastructure bill focusing on electric charging infrastructure and road safety. Modern vehicles such as the Tesla Model S and Mercedes-Benz S-Class have active driver assistance tech that can slow a car down and bring it to a complete stop if it detects that a driver isn't focused behind the wheel. Passive options include traditional 'breathalyzer' tests and touch tests.
"We have to remember that technology is only part of the solution," Homendy said. "To save lives on our roads, we need to look more broadly at the entire transportation system, which includes everything that can prevent a crash."
Once the bill is passed, manufacturers will have only three years to install active or passive technology on their light-duty cars and trucks. Some believe that these measures will violate the privacy of US citizens. Texan Senator John Cornyn's spokesperson recently told the Dallas Morning News that he is "concerned with the federal government having broad, unchecked authority to place passive technology in vehicles that could easily violate privacy rights of law-abiding citizens." If these systems come into place, the NHTSA estimates that more than 9,400 lives will be saved annually.