Among funding for increased bike paths, roadside green spaces, and improved roadways in the newly-passed $1 trillion US infrastructure bill is another critical safety measure. The Transportation Department has issued a new requirement for car companies in the bill: a mandate to develop tech solutions to end drunk driving.
An estimated 10,000 people die as a result of impaired driving in the US each year, accounting for 30 percent of all traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding and drunk driving both increased during the pandemic, with traffic fatalities during the first half of 2021 hitting their highest rate since 2006.
Under the new government mandate, vehicle makers will have to invest in anti-drunk driving technologies such as road cameras which look for signs of drowsiness, loss of consciousness, or impairment in a driver’s actions and response times. Currently, drivers convicted of a DIU must use a breathalyzer device attached to an ignition interlock to start their vehicles, but Sam Abuelsamid, the principal mobility analyst for Guidehouse Insights, tells NPR that this is likely not the strategy the industry will take for all vehicles.
Some automakers, like General Motors, BMW, and Nissan, are already beginning to implement driver safety technology in relation to drunk driving. If the vehicle detects significant signs of drowsiness or impairment, it will put on hazards and pull over to the side of the road.
In addition to drunk driving prevention measures, the infrastructure bill will also mandate rear-seat reminders to notify parents of a child potentially forgotten in the backseat. It also updates safety standards on collapsing front seatbacks and requires automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings. There is no set date for compliance, but most automakers have already implemented these changes.