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Auto Technology that Stops Drunk Driving Now Required by Law

MADD Lauds Monumental Provision in Infrastructure Bill, Calls on Auto Industry to Work Toward Earliest Possible Issuance of New Safety Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A provision included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Biden signed into law today is the most significant lifesaving legislation in the 41-year history of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

MADD National President Alex Otte thanks Senator Ben Ray Luján for leading efforts in the Senate to pass a law requiring a rulemaking that will lead to technology in all new cars that prevents drunk driving.

MADD National President Alex Otte witnessed the historic moment alongside lawmakers who championed a mandate that every new car come equipped with technology that will detect and stop drunk driving.

The “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” section initiates a rulemaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set the new safety standard. When fully implemented on all new cars, more than 9,400 lives could be saved annually, according to a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

MADD National President Alex Otte thanks Congresswoman Debbie Dingell for being the first member of Congress to introduce and lead legislation that will virtually eliminate drunk driving.

“This new law will virtually eliminate deaths and injuries caused by drunk driving. Never in the history of MADD have we been able to say that, and many of us never thought we would see the end in our lifetime, but now we do.” Otte said. “I’m crying tears of joy today for all of the victims and survivors who have worked so hard to make this happen for such a long, long time. This is the beginning of the end of drunk driving.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure bill on Nov. 5. The Senate passed the Infrastructure Bill in August.

The new law is essential to ending the crisis on America’s roads. Last month, NHTSA reported an estimated 20,160 people died on America’s roads in the first half of 2021, an 18.4% increase over the first half of 2019. The rise in traffic deaths is due in large part to impaired driving – the leading cause of traffic deaths and injuries – along with speeding and not wearing seatbelts, according to NHTSA.

“MADD has worked for over four decades to educate and change attitudes toward drunk driving, but we have hit a plateau and are actually heading in the wrong direction,” Otte said. “Technology that exists or is in development today will be the game changer. We challenge the auto industry to work with MADD in pushing for the earliest possible issuance of the new safety standard to help us end drunk driving forever.”

The legislation directs NHTSA to initiate a rulemaking process and set the final standard within three years for impaired driving safety equipment on all new vehicles. NHTSA will evaluate technologies that may include:

  • Driving performance monitoring systems that monitor the vehicle movement using cameras and sensors that are outside the vehicle, such as lane departure warning and attention assist;
  • Systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors that are inside the vehicle;
  • Alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.

Automakers are then given two to three years to implement the safety standard. New cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027.

The push for a drunk driving prevention technology standard for all new vehicles was led in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who introduced the HALT (Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate Drunk Driving) Act in memory of Issam and Rima Abbas and their three children Ali, Isabella and Giselle of Michigan, who were killed by a drunk driver while driving home from vacation in January 2019. Original co-sponsors were David McKinley (R-WV) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY). The Senate version of the bill, the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act, was led by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) with co-sponsorship from Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“We are so grateful for the leadership of Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who returned to Washington after the services for the Abbas family determined to stop these tragedies. Senator Luján has been a fierce advocate for victims, along with Representatives Rice and McKinley and Senator Scott,” Otte said. “And this would not be possible without the leadership of Senators Peters and Capito and Representatives Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky. They are all MADD heroes.”

In 2019, more than 10,000 people were killed and 300,000 others injured in drunk driving crashes. Preliminary NHTSA estimates for 2020 show alcohol-related deaths spiked by 9% compared to 2019, even as vehicle miles traveled plummeted by more than 430 billion miles.

For more information about the legislation and vehicle technology to stop drunk driving, please visit madd.org/HALT/RIDEAct.

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 percent 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 www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, [email protected]

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