NHTSA Seeks Info on State of Impaired Driving Technology

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking information about the state of technology to detect impaired driving, how to deploy the technology safely and effectively and other information to develop a standard to prevent impaired drivers from being able to drive a vehicle.

Distilled Spirits Council and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have both endorsed the use of technology to reduce deaths attributed to drunk driving.

The technology NHTSA is contemplating prevents an alcohol-impaired driver from being able to start the car.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directs NHTSA to issue a final rule establishing a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires new passenger vehicles to have “advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.” The law says that NHTSA should issue a new regulation only if it meets the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which states that a proposed standard must be reasonable, practicable, and reduce traffic crashes and associated deaths, among other factors.

This notice helps lay the groundwork for potential alcohol-impairment detection technology standards in all new passenger vehicles when the technology is mature, NHTSA says. Alcohol impairment is one of the leading causes of death on our nation’s roads. In 2021, the latest data available, 13,384 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

In its simplest form, the technology being developed detects if a driver is intoxicated and will prevent the car from starting.

DISCUS has supported development and installation of impaired driving technology since Peter Cressy was president/CEO. Not only has DISCUS supported development of the new technology, it has joined MADD in calling for development of the technology. Cressy told us he agreed with MADD that drunk driving deaths are 100% preventable.

NHTSA estimates that fatalities, injuries, and property damage from alcohol-impaired driving cost our society $280 billion in lost wages, lost quality of life, medical costs, and so much more. Impaired driving prevention technology is an action identified in the National Roadway Safety Strategy to significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the nation’s roadways in support of our vision of zero traffic deaths through vehicle features that promote driver safety and align with the principles of a safe system approach.

“Impaired driving crashes are 100% preventable – there’s simply no excuse or reason to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs. We urge everyone to be responsible this holiday season. If you’ve had anything to drink, use public transportation, arrange for a sober driver, or call a taxi or ride-hailing service and get home safely,” said Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator.

In a statement, MADD said it is pushing or the earliest possible final rulemaking and implementation.

MADD's national president, Tess Rowland, wasn't onvolved with MADD when she was hit head on in May 2021 while she was driving to her job as a television news reporter in Florida. The impact caused severe, life-threatening injuries, from which she is continuing to recover. First responders on the scene described her survival as a miracle and credited her car’s automatic emergency braking system with slowing down her car and lessening the impact of the crash.

“I am here today because my car saved my life, but I continue to deal with my injuries every single day,” Rowland says. “With the implementation of the HALT Act, auto safety technology will go even further to protect against these violent crashes from happening in the first place by stopping people who attempt to drive while drunk or impaired by other drugs.”