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Senate Passes Bipartisan Provision for Drunk Driving Prevention Tech in All New Cars

Technology Required in Provision Could Prevent 9,400 Drunk Driving Deaths Annually

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a vote today that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hailed as a major step toward ending drunk driving, the U.S. Senate passed a provision in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to require lifesaving drunk driving prevention technology as standard equipment in all new cars.

The “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” section of the Infrastructure bill mandates an advanced vehicle technology standard that is expected to prevent more than 9,400 drunk driving deaths annually, according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The measure was led by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rick Scott (R-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“Today’s vote is a major step toward finally winning the war on drunk driving,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “We are grateful to Senators Luján, Scott, Peters and Capito and our bipartisan allies in Congress who boldly championed a requirement to make lifesaving drunk driving prevention technology a standard feature in all new cars.”

The bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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 with systems like lane departure warning and attention assist;
  • Driver monitoring systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors;
  • 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.

“Too many families across America have felt the pain of losing a loved one from drunk and impaired driving crashes. After years of advocacy from survivors and victims’ families, the Senate took action to help end drunk and impaired driving with the inclusion of these measures in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation,” said Luján. “As a victim and survivor of a drunk driving crash, I know how important this legislation is for those like me who live to tell the story and the thousands every year who can’t. I’ll continue fighting to get this signed into law.”

The provision passed today as part of the Infrastructure bill is similar to a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), David McKinley (R-WV) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY). The HALT (Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate Drunk Driving) Act was passed as part of the INVEST in America Act on July 1. Congresswoman Dingell named the bill in memory of the five members of the Abbas family of Michigan, who were killed by a drunk driver while driving home from vacation in January 2019.

“We are so grateful for the steadfast support of bipartisan leaders in the Senate and the House, like Congresswoman Dingell, who have tirelessly advocated for this lifesaving safety standard,” said Rana Abbas Taylor. “The crash that killed my only sister Rima, her husband Issam, and their three amazing children Ali, Isabella and Giselle was 100 percent preventable. This bill can ensure that no other families are forced to suffer the unimaginable pain that we have.”

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

“Drunk driving threatens everyone,” said MADD National President Otte. “Since this state-of-the-art smart technology already exists, we feel confident that the auto industry has the resources and expertise to make these critical safety advancements well within the timeline specified in this legislation.”

Americans support Congressional action to require drunk driving prevention technology as standard equipment in all new vehicles, according to a nationwide poll conducted by Ipsos for MADD. The survey found that 9 of 10 Americans support technology that is integrated into a car’s electronics to prevent drunk driving (89% say it is a good or very good idea[1]), while 3 of 4 (77%) back Congressional action to require this technology in all new vehicles. More broadly, 8 of 10 (83%) believe that new auto safety features should be standard in vehicles as they become available, not part of optional equipment packages.

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.

About The Survey

The poll was conducted March 5 to March 7, 2021, by Ipsos using their KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,016 general population adults aged 18 or older, with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

[1] Respondents were given the following description: “Multiple automotive technologies exist that could prevent drunk driving and require no actions by the driver. Adoption of these technologies in vehicles may prevent 9,000 drunk driving deaths every year.”

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