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Every year, impaired driving is responsible for thousands of fatalities on U.S. roads. To combat this issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced plans to require new cars to have technology that can detect and prevent drivers from operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While car safety features have come a long way over the years, this new development could mark a significant milestone in reducing the number of impaired driving accidents on our roads. We’ll take a closer look at the NHTSA’s plans for implementing anti-impaired driving technology and what it could mean for car safety in the future.

Police offers give a field sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint.
DUI checkpoints could be a thing of the past. | Joe Raedle via Getty Images

The new law that will make roads safer

According to IIHS, the recent bipartisan infrastructure law passed in 2021 contains a congressional mandate for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require every new passenger vehicle to be equipped with a system that prevents an alcohol-impaired driver from operating it.

The law instructs the agency to give manufacturers two to three years to comply, and the agency must explain any delay in a report to Congress. This mandate could prevent more than 9,000 deaths per year, and it is a huge victory for advocates led by victims of impaired driving and mothers against drunk driving.

However, before issuing a final regulation, NHTSA must complete several large tasks, such as researching the breadth of potential technologies, determining tests and criteria to evaluate manufacturer compliance, coming up with a cost estimate for equipping the fleet, publishing a proposed regulation, weighing public comments, and making revisions as needed.

Where are we now with the implementation of the law?

The agency must complete various large tasks before issuing a final regulation. These include researching the breadth of potential technologies and developing a cost estimate for equipping the fleet. The technology, developed by the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) project, uses a breath-based system similar to ignition interlocks, which are often installed by court order.

However, the passive system does not require the driver to blow into a tube or take any special action. It simply analyzes the driver’s exhalations from normal breathing and prevents the vehicle from moving if it determines the driver has had too much to drink. Other technologies have been developed to detect signs of erratic driving, fatigue, or distraction.

The IIHS is encouraging manufacturers that offer partial automation on their vehicles to include robust driver monitoring that can issue warnings if a driver isn’t paying attention to the road and ultimately stop the vehicle if those alerts are ignored. The law aims to prevent impaired-driving deaths, which account for 29% of fatalities in road crashes.

How the new law will be enforced and the potential challenges involved

Public support for a new law is crucial for its successful implementation. In the case of this law, it is important to maintain public support throughout the implementation process. The law has gained public support due to its potential benefits for society, such as increased safety, reduced crime, and better regulation of the industry.

However, there may be opposition to the law from some individuals or groups who may have different interests, beliefs, or values. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the public understands the purpose and benefits of the law and to address any concerns or misunderstandings they may have.

This can be achieved through effective communication and engagement strategies, such as public consultations, information campaigns, and stakeholder meetings. Additionally, the government and other relevant institutions must demonstrate their commitment to implementing the law in a fair, transparent, and accountable manner.

By maintaining public support for the law, it will be easier to overcome any challenges or obstacles that may arise during the implementation process and achieve its intended goals for the benefit of society.


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