New technology mandate in infrastructure bill could help prevent drunk driving deaths

Bay County

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)– A notable mandate tucked into President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill could go a long way in making roads safer.

Part of the bill includes the HALT act and RIDE act, which require all new cars sold to be equipped with technology that can sense a drunk driver and keep them off the road. It could become a standard feature as early as 2026.

“According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety if this technology is included in all new cars it could save 9,400 lives per year, essentially eliminating drunk driving,” said Mother’s Against Drunk Driving National President, Alex Otte.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show at least 10,000 people lose their lives each year at the hands of an impaired driver, at least 300,000 are injured.

News 13’s Tess Rowland was hit head-on by a suspected drunk and drugged driver back in May causing her to be out of work for months.

Now thanks to the newly signed infrastructure bill, we may be closer to the day we have no more victims of a 100% preventable crime.

“It could potentially end drunk driving as we know it,” said Otte.

Some of the technologies being considered range from lane-change and speed detection to automatic braking. These are items available in some cars, but often for an additional price. MADD has submitted a list of 241 different technologies to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The goal of the new technology is to be entirely passive.

“So the drunk driver will get in their car and it won’t start, or it will stop and pull over, depending on which technology is chosen,” said Otte. “The sober driver will get in their car and never know it is there.”

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Jason King has spent his career trying to keep impaired drivers stay off the road.

He said impaired driving is a growing problem in our area, even with resources like free towing or rideshare services.

“It’s definitely a place to come hang out, have fun and enjoy the beaches, and with that comes drinking occasionally,” King said. “So we do have an issue where we are battling impaired driving.”

King also believes the new technology will help hold drivers accountable, and may even reduce other types of crashes.

“Even if they [a driver] are not drunk, even if they have worked a 16-hour day and they are drowsy, the end result can be the same as driving intoxicated and that could be death or major injury,” he said.

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