Congress’ New Mandate to Car makers: Figure Out a Way to Stop Drunk Driving

Traffic Safety Pulse News

(NPR) Congress has created a new requirement for automakers: Find a high-tech way to prevent people from driving under the influence. Under the legislation, monitoring systems to stop intoxicated drivers would roll out in all new vehicles as early as 2026.  Sam Abuelsamid, principal mobility analyst for Guidehouse Insights, said the most likely system to prevent drunken driving is infrared cameras that monitor driver behavior, which is already being installed by several automakers to track driver attentiveness while using partially automated driver-assist systems.

While promoting the legislation's benefits at a White House briefing, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg said he had traveled the country in recent months and seen too many roadside memorials for people who had died in preventable traffic deaths. He pointed to a new $5 billion "Safe Streets & Roads for All" program under his department that will in part promote safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians. The federal program would support cities' campaigns to end traffic fatalities with a "Vision Zero" effort that could build traffic roundabouts to slow cars, carve out new bike paths, widen sidewalks and even reduce some roads to shift commuters toward public transit or other modes of transportation. The legislation requires at least 15% of a state's highway safety improvement program funds to address any non motorized road users if those groups make up 15% or more of the state's crash fatalities.

Safety advocates still worry that the bill missed opportunities to provide more immediate solutions to the U.S. crisis of road fatalities. They called on NHTSA to address a backlog of traffic safety regulations ordered by Congress nearly a decade ago, such as mandatory rear seat belt reminders. The department recently said it will release a "safe system approach" to road safety in January that identifies safety action for drivers, roads, vehicles, speeds and post-crash medical care.

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