NHTSA Takes Step Toward Mandatory Anti-DUI Tech

Law requires 'reasonable, practical' technology in new cars
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2023 7:50 AM CST
Feds Are Working on Anti-Drunk Driving Tech
A sign warns motorists as they approach a sobriety checkpoint on State Route 4 in Fairfield, Ohio.   (AP Photo/The Enquirer, Glenn Hartong, File)/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is moving toward getting drunk drivers off the road for good. The federal regulator said Tuesday that it is working on implementing a rule requiring new cars to have technology that prevents drunk or impaired driving, NPR reports. The NHTSA said it has issued a notice allowing it to start collecting information about the state of technology to prevent impaired driving and how to deploy it "safely and effectively." The devices were required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress passed in 2021, reports the AP. The law says the technology needs to be "reasonable" and "practical."

"Alcohol impairment is one of the leading causes of death on our nation's roads," the NHTSA said in a statement. The agency said 13,384 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2021, the most recent year it has data for. December of that year was the deadliest for impaired driving crashes in almost 15 years, with more than 1,000 people killed, the agency said. The NHTSA said it estimates drunk driving costs "our society $280 billion in lost wages, lost quality of life, medical costs, and so much more." The new technology is "going to keep drunk drivers off the road and we're going to keep people from dying because somebody's drunk," says Rep. Debbie Dingell. "This is going to be simple technology."

The agency and 16 automakers have been funding research on alcohol monitoring technology, the AP reports. One kind of technology being researched automatically tests a driver's breath for alcohol without the driver having to blow into a tube. Another option is testing the driver's finger for blood alcohol. The Guardian reports that another possibility is cameras that monitor eye movements for signs of impairment. It will probably be years before the new rule is fully implemented. After the technology is chosen and tested and the public comment period has passed, automakers will be given three years to introduce it. (More drunk driving stories.)

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