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An End to Drunk Driving?



A $1 trillion infrastructure bill was approved by the House lawmakers on Friday. One of the goals of this bill is to improve auto safety and reduce escalating road fatalities. Thus, part of this bill includes that automakers will be mandated to install new technology into their vehicles that can detect and stop drunk drivers.


Specifically, the new technology must “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.” and/or “prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if an impairment is detected.” legislation says.


The Transportation Department will assess the best form of technology to be installed in new automobiles, after which all automakers will have to comply. It’s said that this technology could be installed in all new vehicles as early as 2026.


It’s obvious that advancement in technology to prioritize the safety of drivers and pedestrians is a good thing, but how good is it really? As of last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that over 20,000 people died in the first half of 2020 in traffic collisions. The agency pointed most of the reasoning to speeding, impaired driving, and lack of wearing seat belts as factors. That’s the highest first-half death count since 2006. Beyond that, at least 10,000 people are killed due to alcohol-related crashes in the US, making up around 30% of all traffic-related fatalities yearly.


What are some of the forms this technology can be implemented? Sam Abuelsamid, the principal mobility analyst for Guidehouse Insights says that the most likely system to prevent drunk driving is infrared cameras which monitor the driver’s behavior. Technology, which is already being applied by automakers such as General Motors, BMW, and Nissan to monitor driver attentiveness as well as using partially automated driving-assist systems. The cameras will ensure that the driver is watching the road, identifying signs of drowsiness, loss of consciousness or impairment. Should any signs be detected, the vehicle will warn the driver. Should the behavior persist, then the vehicle will automatically activate its hazard lights and slow down, pulling to the side of the road. Abuelsamid notes that this is a better alternative to breath-analyzing solutions because that isn’t practical as most people would object to being forced to blow into a tube every time they hop into a car.



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