Federal leadership is essential for auto industry to leverage its tech prowess and eliminate drunk driving

WASHINGTON – MADD National President Helen Witty is urging Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Biden’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to support legislation that will require all new vehicles to be equipped with drunk driving prevention systems.

In a December 22 letter to Buttigieg, Witty explained that such technology would save thousands of lives, but federally mandated safety standards are needed to move this lifesaving technology from the research and development stage into an installation requirement for all new automobiles.

“Since MADD’s founding 40 years ago, we have made tremendous progress, reducing drunk driving deaths by 52 percent. But the job is not done. Each year more than 10,000 people are killed and thousands more are injured in drunk driving crashes. We want to eliminate drunk driving, and we know that cannot happen without using advanced technology. We ask for your support,” Witty wrote.

She noted that a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that more than 9,400 lives — about one-fourth of the current highway death total — will be saved each year when all vehicles have advanced drunk driving prevention systems.

Fortunately, there have been positive developments regarding the future of deployment of this technology.

  • In July 2020, the U.S. House included the Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate Drunk Driving (HALT) Act as part of a major surface transportation measure. This bill called for a process that will lead to drunk driving prevention technology as standard equipment in new vehicles in a few years. The HALT Act was led through the House by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (New Jersey) and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (Illinois). Representative Debbie Dingell (Michigan) led the way by proposing the groundbreaking legislation right after a devastating wrong-way drunk driving crash that killed a family of five from her community — Issam and Rima Abbas and their young children Ali, Isabella and Giselle.
  • A similar measure in the Senate, the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act had bipartisan sponsorship from Senators Rick Scott (Florida) and Tom Udall (New Mexico). No action was taken this year but bipartisan legislation is expected in the Senate in the new Congress.

Given the auto industry’s enormous investments in self-driving vehicles, electrification, and other advancements, Witty said it’s clear that the industry has the resources and expertise needed to make drunk driving prevention technology a reality. She asked Buttigieg for USDOT’s help in supporting legislation that will result in the industry’s full engagement in putting systems into all vehicles that will prevent drunk driving deaths.

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save nearly 400,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, 202-600-2032, becky.iannotta@madd.org

MADD Letter to Secretary-designate Buttigieg