Following a period of alarming increases, traffic fatalities finally began to decline in 2022 and through the first half of 2023, but there’s still much work to be done in that regard. Many of these deaths are caused by things like improper seatbelt use, as well as those that drive under the influence of not only alcohol, but other drugs as well – even marijuana. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been working to rectify these issues by ordering mandatory crash reporting and proposing an expansion to current seatbelt warning systems, while Ford has long worked to demonstrate the effects of driving impaired through simulations and even a “hangover suit” that replicates the way we feel the morning after a bit of a binge. Now, the NHTSA is endorsing impaired-driving prevention technology for vehicles, too.
The NHTSA has taken the first step in this process by introducing the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which helps fulfill a requirement in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and supports the Department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy. It also helps lay the groundwork for potential alcohol-impairment detection technology standards in all new passenger vehicles when the technology is viable for use in the real world.
The motivation behind this endorsement is the fact that alcohol impairment remains one of the leading causes of death on U.S. roadways, as 13,384 people lost their lives as a result of drunk driving crashes in 2021 alone. Additionally, these fatalities – coupled with injuries property damage from alcohol-impaired driving cost an estimated $280 billion in lost wages, lost quality of life, medical costs, and other factors, according to the NHTSA.
For now, the ANPRM will gather information about the state of technology to detect impaired driving, as well as how to deploy that technology safely and effectively, a move that was made in response to a requirement in the IRA to establish a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires new passenger vehicles to have “advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.” The law says that NHTSA should issue a new regulation only if it meets the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which states that a proposed standard must be reasonable, practicable, and reduce traffic crashes and associated deaths, among other factors.