Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) celebrates a new report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open that shows strong public support for equipping all new cars with impaired driving prevention technology, as mandated in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“The report reinforces MADD’s strong belief that most people want to see this safety feature on new cars to prevent the senseless deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving,” said MADD CEO Stacey D. Stewart. “With historic increases in traffic deaths over the past three years, implementation of impaired driving prevention technology is urgently needed.”
The report, “Public Support for Vehicle Technology to Prevent Operation by Impaired Drivers,” by researchers with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is based on a nationwide survey of adults who were asked if they support six different types of vehicle technologies – vehicle impairment prevention, fatigue warning, seat belt interlock, speed warning, cell phone blocking and speed limiters. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 64.9%, either agreed or strongly agreed that vehicle impairment prevention technology should be available on all new vehicles. Nearly the same percentage of respondents (63.4%) said they support the mandate for the technology that is included in the Infrastructure Law.
“Widespread public endorsement suggests that social norms rejecting impaired driving are well established and the technology will be broadly accepted,” the authors wrote. “Automakers and regulators can advance with implementation of the mandate with the expectation that most of the public will support the change.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to complete a rulemaking for impaired driving prevention technology by 2024. The systems would passively detect impairment and would not be noticeable to unimpaired drivers. Automakers would then have up to three years to implement the new safety standard.
The JAMA study follows recommendations this week by the Technical Working Group on Advanced Impaired Driving Prevention Technology (TWG). The group of auto safety experts and consumer advocates recommended deployment of comprehensive systems that detect blood alcohol content, combined with driver monitoring technologies such as cameras and other sensors that will eventually detect impairment by other drugs, distracted and drowsy driving. The TWG suggested first addressing prevention of alcohol-impaired driving – the leading killer on U.S. roadways – and later incorporating automatic warning systems for other types of risky driving.
“The best driver impairment detection system will be capable of detecting a wide range of impairment types and reacting in a way that limits risk to everyone on the road, including the driver,” the guidance states. “With this approach, prevention of drug-, distraction-, or fatigue-related driver impairment would not need to be required in initial years of a mandate, nor would intervening in the operation of a moving vehicle. While a comprehensive system is the target, the TWG believes that the benefits of early deployment vastly exceed the value of waiting for a perfect system.”
More than 13,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2021 and nearly 400,000 were injured. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, equipping all vehicles with impaired driving prevention technology would save more than 9,000 lives annually.
The impaired driving prevention technology mandate is the result of a bipartisan effort in Congress, led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. The provision, known as the Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act, is named for a Michigan family of five – parents Issam and Rima Abbas and their children Ali, Isabella and Giselle – who were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver on January 6, 2019. A coalition of victims, survivors and traffic safety advocates rallied around the HALT Act and celebrated its passage in November 2021.