December is all about Christmas, the New Year, and the festive atmosphere all around us, but December is also a big month for drinking and driving. Data shows that in the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year, authorities have a lot of work to do when it comes to drunk driving, as this is also the period with a substantial increase in incidents with victims on the roads across the country. But federal regulators are serious about cracking down on drunk driving with a new proposal that also includes modern technology.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s top road safety regulator, more than 13,000 Americans have died in 2021 in alcohol-related crashes alone. Earlier this week, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials announced a plan that should change this in the near future. At an event in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, US government officials confirmed they are taking the first step towards requiring all cars in the US to have a special gadget that will check if the driver is drunk just moments after getting behind the wheel.
Although this promising measure and most probably future regulation sound good when it comes to safety, it will surely take time before the US government mandates auto manufacturers include this technology in vehicles, as it will require multiple rounds of public input and further development. In translation, this technology is not yet ready for broad use, both in theory and in practice.
That assessment is threaded throughout a new 99-page “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” the agency released Tuesday, a sort of pit stop along the way to issuing regulations that would mandate in-car technology that could recognize when a driver has been drinking alcohol.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now wants to learn more from experts on how to implement this in vehicles and what technology should be used to make the whole process unnoticeable while still being effective. The NHTSA says everything should be passive, and no actions would be required from drivers.
“Today’s announcement sets the groundwork for impaired driving rulemaking that will seek the most mature and effective technology,” Polly Trottenberg, the deputy secretary of the US Department of Transportation, said at the event Tuesday.
We can all agree that such technology would prevent drunk driving and save thousands of lives on American roads annually, but implementing something revolutionary like this comes with problems. Potential false-positive results will cause huge issues for drivers who won’t be able to drive even though they are not drunk. We can expect this technology to evolve enough until it becomes mandatory, but false positive results are one of the major concerns for developers right now.
Another important drawback is price. The expense of the development and implementation of this modern technology will have a huge impact on the final price of the vehicles, directly affecting customers. In combination with constantly growing car prices and inflation, this revolutionary technology could become yet another factor in more expensive vehicles in the near future.
Whichever strategy—or blend of strategies—the authorities opt for, effective anti-drunk-driving technology should decrease the impact of traffic accidents. Initiatives aimed at altering driver mindsets and practices, like informational drives or training sessions, don’t consistently yield strong results. Leveraging technology can significantly contribute to curtailing drunk driving incidents, particularly if these mechanisms perform as well as regulators think they do.