There have been many initiatives to address the dangers of drinking and driving. There has been a reduction in the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) to .08. The penalties have become increasingly stringent, particularly for repeat offenders. Nevertheless, about one million drivers are arrested each year for driving while over the legal limit, with millions more doing so without getting caught.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30% of all road-related deaths involve an intoxicated driver. It averages to about 10,000 deaths per year these days, but there is the potential for higher numbers if the predicted final tallies of road-related fatalities in the last few years turn out to be accurate.
Congress turns to technology
Rather than more laws and severe penalties, Congress is now looking at technological solutions. Seventeen billion dollars in the new infrastructure bill is earmarked to make roads safer. The bill includes new designs, more safety islands for pedestrians more streetlights. It also rewards those who develop vehicles that monitor whether the driver is too intoxicated to drive. According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), alcohol technology software could save up to 9,400 lives annually (using today’s numbers) when implemented.
There already are ignition interlock systems, which require a breathalyzer before the vehicle starts, which is often used for those with a new DUI suspension or multiple DUIs. The new system of passive sensors measures the sobriety of the driver. It would include measuring the ambient air in the vehicle and using the technology that currently monitors whether the driver is distracted or tired. Theoretically, it would first notify the driver that they are unfit to drive, and then it could take control of the vehicle and pull it to the side of the road.
Full implementation is still in the distance
Legislators could draft requirements for all new vehicles to have it as a mandatory safety feature. Implementation could begin as soon as 2025 or 2026 and will take years to become commonplace. Although this is excellent news, it is little consolation to the thousands of victims and their families who will be severely injured or lose their lives because of someone driving over the limit. They will still need to hold negligent drivers accountable for their irresponsibility by filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.