House Keeps Funding for Passive Technology to Prevent Drunk Driving

The House voted to reject an amendment to the FY2024 House Transportation appropriations bill that sought to block funding for a Transportation Department rulemaking to require passive technology in new vehicles to prevent impaired driving. The amendment had been sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) The passive technology requirement is supposed to take effect in 2026.

Most experts, including those in the bev/al community and groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving support the technology. It will save lives, they say, while avoiding some of the obvious risks to breathalyzer technology. Among those risks: Whether a person exceeds the legal limit depends how much a person weighs as well as the quantity of alcohol consumed.

The House action Wednesday provides funding for the "Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act," named in honor of Issam and Rima Abbas and their children Ali, Isabella and Giselle who were killed on I-75 in Lexington, Ky., by a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content nearly four times the legal limit.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that when implemented this impaired driving prevention technology will save more than 10,000 lives each year.

As an example of how the technology would work, the steering wheel might have sensors that would detect when a driver is unable to drive safely owing to substance abuse. In that case, the car simply would not start. Advocates for the technology expect it to lead to a dramatic reduction in drunk-driving crashes.

Chris Swonger, president/ceo, Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., praised the vote supporting "the continued development of critical impaired driving prevention technology in new vehicles and for rejecting the misguided Massie amendment.

"Even though impaired driving crashes are 100% preventable, the number of people killed in DUI crashes the past couple of years has increased," Swonger said, adding:

"We must make use of all technology and tools at our disposal to save lives and increase safety on roads across the country, and with this amendment’s down-vote, America is one significant step closer to that goal. We extend our sincere gratitude to the Representatives who voted to reject this amendment, as it would have led to further unnecessary tragedy.”

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