A key provision in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021 requires a new national safety standard for state-of-the-art smart technology in all new cars that would ultimately eliminate impaired driving.
Traffic fatalities are dramatically higher than they were a decade ago. As U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has stated, we are facing “a national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries.” Every month we wait to get this technology on all new cars means more than 1,000 preventable deaths and 25,000 preventable injuries caused by drunk driving. Additionally, drunk driving is costing the U.S. economy $120 billion a year.
Passage of this legislation is the most significant, lifesaving public policy victory in MADD’s 42-year history. “This marks the beginning of the end of drunk driving,” MADD National President Alex Otte said in a November 2021 statement.
Here are 10 things to know about the impaired driving prevention tech provision:
1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must conduct a rulemaking process. Automakers would be given two to three years to implement the new standard.
The technology-neutral legislation gives NHTSA three years to evaluate technologies and set the standard for impaired driving prevention technology on all new vehicles. New cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027.
2. Advanced passive technology systems to prevent drunk driving already exist or are in development.
Advanced passive technology systems to prevent drunk driving already exist or are in development. MADD documented in a Request for Information (RFI) response to NHTSA in May 2021 that 241 advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technologies exist. Many of them could be deployed today.
- Driving assistance systems that monitor the vehicle movement with systems like lane departure warning and collision assist;
- Driver monitoring systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors;
- Passive alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.
Driving assistance and driver monitoring systems could be beneficial not only to prevent impaired driving, but to detect other dangerous behaviors that lead to crashes such as drowsy driving, distracted driving, and even medical emergencies.
3. Passive alcohol detection systems are not simple breathalyzers or ignition interlock devices.
This smart technology has NO relation to police breathalyzers or to ignition interlock devices that require a motorist to actively blow into a device. Advanced alcohol detection systems use sensors integrated into a car that passively determine if the person behind the wheel is impaired.
4. Research supports technological solutions to end impaired driving.
More than 9,400 lives will be saved annually when all new cars have drunk driving prevention technology as standard equipment, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
5. The technology must be mandated, not voluntary, as standard equipment in all new cars.
The auto industry has the resources and expertise to make safety advancements like impaired driving prevention a reality, much the same way it has used its R&D prowess for self-driving vehicles, electrification and many safety innovations.
According to an announcement in 2022, the Hyundai Mobis cabin monitoring system includes passive alcohol detection technology. “It will also be possible to detect if the driver is intoxicated and block the driver from driving,” Hyundai Mobis announced in June. “It uses optical sensor technology to detect the alcohol content in the driver’s breath to determine the blood alcohol level. This technology is much more accurate and convenient than electrochemical sensors that require mouth-to-mouth blowing.”
- “Hyundai Mobis M.VICS And Smart Cabin Secures Safe And Sound Autonomous Driving,” Hyundai. July 21, 2022. https://www.hyundaimotorgroup.com/story/CONT0000000000043965
- “Drunk or drowsy? This cabin controller from Hyundai wouldn’t let you drive,” Tech Radar. June 24, 2022. https://www.techradar.com/news/drunk-or-drowsythis-cabin-controller-from-hyundai-wouldnt-let-you-drive
On September 8, 2021, Euro NCAP tweeted the following “The all-new but conventionally powered Subaru Outback achieves an outstanding score of 95% for Safety Assist!The car is equipped with a system which detects signs of fatigue or impairment directly from the driver’s eye movements and combines this with steering behaviour.”
Volvo has been adding in-car sensors and cameras to its vehicles, aimed at enhancing safety by monitoring drivers for signs of intoxication and distraction, then intervening to prevent crashes. It made the following announcements in March 2019.
- Volvo Video: https://www.media.volvocars.com/global/en-gb/media/videos/250162/in-car-cameras-and-intervention-against-intoxication-distraction-animation1
- Volvo Press Release: https://www.media.volvocars.com/global/en-gb/media/pressreleases/250015/volvo-cars-to-deploy-in-car-cameras-and-intervention-against-intoxication-distraction
Nissan unveiled a new concept car in 2007 with multiple preventive features against drunk and impaired driving. It used alcohol odor sensors, facial monitoring and vehicle operational behavior to detect driver impairment.
Toyota announced a drunk driving prevention system in 2007 with hopes of having it in cars by the end of 2009. The technology was described as a fail-safe system using sensors to detect the bodily presence of alcohol or impaired behavior.
6. MADD is fully committed to a vehicle technology standard that protects driver privacy.
MADD would not support a final standard that leaves consumers vulnerable to privacy invasions or that uses their data for commercial or malicious purposes. Impaired driving prevention technology should only use data (such as blood-alcohol content) or personally identifiable information (such as facial recognition) briefly to either disable a vehicle from being operated by an impaired driver or to safely bring an in-motion vehicle to an appropriate stop.
7. The timeline is reasonable and the cost to auto manufacturers is minimal.
MADD is confident the timeline can be met with existing technologies and those currently being developed. For example, one technology entity that is pursuing DUI prevention technology, The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), estimates it will cost auto manufacturers $200 per vehicle to add their technology and states that their current timeline for use in consumer vehicles is by 2024 for the breath system and 2025 for the touch system. This timetable for installation in cars is well within the statutory and regulatory timeline specified in the pending congressional legislation.
8. MADD is neutral on the technology options.
As MADD documented in a Request for Information (RFI) response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in May 2021, there are many potential technologies to prevent impaired driving. As soon as any one solution is proven effective, it must be introduced and implemented immediately as standard equipment in all new cars. If additional impaired driving prevention technologies are proven effective, they should be implemented subsequently.
9. MADD spearheaded this bipartisan effort.
The House bill was championed by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), David McKinley (RWV) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY). The Senate bill is led by Senators Ben Ray Luján (DNM), Rick Scott (R-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
10. American consumers strongly supported the Congressional technology mandate.
According to a nationwide poll conducted by Ipsos for MADD, 9 out of 10 Americans support technology that is integrated into a car’s electronics to prevent drunk driving. 91% of respondents said the technology is a good or very good idea. Support for the technology spans gender, age, income and regional differences. The most common factor that influences support for impaired driving prevention technology in all new cars is cost, according to the poll commissioned by MADD. 78% of respondents said they are much more or somewhat more likely to support the technology if it comes at no extra cost to consumers.
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 400,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50% and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit http://www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.
About The Survey
The poll was conducted October 28-30, 2022, by Ipsos using its KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,030 general population adults age 18 or older, with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Contact: Becky Iannotta, 202.600.2032, [email protected]
Updated November 2022