Drunk driving prevention technology to be required in new cars

Alisa McMorris lost her 12-year-old son, Andrew, after a drunk driver plowed into his Boy Scout troop in Manorville, Long Island, three years ago.

"I dropped my son off for a hike and an hour-and-half later, 100 minutes later, I got a phone call that he was hit by a drunk driver," she said. "That changed my life."

Ever since that fateful day, McMorris has been fighting to get drunk driving prevention technology installed in all vehicles to stop tragedies such as Andrew's from ever happening again.

"If we have self-driving cars, we can have driver-assisted technology in the vehicles that will help keep our roads safe," she said. "It helps our drivers."

Lawmakers in Congress are finally answering McMorris's calls.

The $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a burst of new spending aimed at improving auto safety. Under the legislation, monitoring systems to stop drunk drivers would roll out in all new vehicles as early as 2026 after the Department of Transportation figures out a plan and automakers are given enough time to comply.

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"This will be, literally, detecting blood alcohol content as you breathe," Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said. "This is something that currently only happens if you use an interlock system."

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Over a 10-year period from 2010 to 2019, more than 10,000 people died on average per year in drunk driving crashes. In 2019 alone, one person was killed in a drunk driving crash every 52 minutes.

"We have been talking about trying to get out ahead of these 10,000-plus drunk driving deaths a year for many, many years," Levine said. "This technology can help us get there very quickly."

The NHTSA also reported a recent spike in traffic collisions attributed to impaired driving, speeding, and not wearing seatbelts during the coronavirus pandemic.

President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan will dedicate about $17 billion in total to road safety. It is the biggest increase in such funding in decades.