US agency NHTSA pushes mandate for anti-drunk driving technology

  • Mandatory Technology Implementation: U.S. regulators initiate a process to mandate technology preventing intoxicated drivers from starting vehicles.
  • Congressional Directive: In 2021, Congress instructed the NHTSA to establish a safety standard by November 2024 to address over 10,000 annual road deaths.
  • Diverse Technologies Considered: Potential solutions include breath or touch sensors for alcohol detection and eye-monitoring cameras to identify signs of impairment.
  • Assurance and Implementation Timeline: NHTSA requires proof of technology effectiveness before mandating it and plans to give automakers a three-year period to implement the finalized rules.
  • Concerns About False Positives: Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson highlights the challenge of ensuring high accuracy to prevent false positives, especially in emergency situations.
  • Positive Reaction and Ongoing Efforts: Mothers Against Drunk Driving expresses satisfaction with NHTSA’s initiative, acknowledging the challenges ahead in combating alcohol-impaired driving.
US agency NHTSA pushes mandate for anti-drunk driving technology
Image Credit: US Department of Transportation

To improve road safety, U.S. auto safety regulators have initiated a process that could compel automakers to integrate advanced technology aimed at preventing intoxicated individuals from operating vehicles.

NHTSA to enforce anti-drunk driving technology

This initiative stems from a directive issued by Congress in 2021, instructing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement passive technology with the goal of reducing the staggering toll of over 10,000 annual road fatalities. According to the law, a new safety standard leveraging this technology is expected to be in place by November 2024, provided the technology is deemed ready.

Various potential technologies are currently in development to deter impaired individuals from starting a vehicle. These include breath- or touch-based sensors designed to detect alcohol levels, as well as the utilization of cameras to monitor eye movements, helping ascertain whether a driver is intoxicated.

However, before the NHTSA can mandate the implementation of such technology, it must ensure its effectiveness and reliability. Once the agency finalizes the rules, automakers will be given a minimum of three years to integrate the technology.

Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson emphasized the importance of confirming the technology’s efficacy, noting that public acceptance hinges on its accuracy. With close to 1 billion daily driving journeys in the United States, even a 99.9% accuracy rate could result in a substantial number of false positives, potentially affecting those facing emergencies.

On Tuesday, the NHTSA published an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” to kickstart the process of collecting information on how this technology can be developed and made mandatory. The regulatory notice outlines the necessary research and technological advancements required to finalize regulations, exploring options such as “Blood alcohol content detection, impairment-detection (driver monitoring), or a combination.”

The announcement received positive feedback from Mothers Against Drunk Driving President Tess Rowland, who expressed the group’s satisfaction with the NHTSA’s proactive stance. Rowland acknowledged the challenges ahead but stressed the determination of victims and survivors to see this initiative through.

Alarming statistics from 2021 reveal that 13,384 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired driving traffic incidents. In a related development, Carlson is scheduled to address a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Wednesday, sharing that U.S. traffic deaths decreased by 4.5% in the first nine months of the year, following a notable rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this positive trend, Carlson emphasized that caution is warranted, stating that the reduction in fatalities is not cause for celebration.

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Source(s): The Washington Post

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