Advanced Technology in All New Vehicles Could Prevent More Than 9,400 Drunk Driving Deaths Annually

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives includes the single most important legislation in Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 41-year history, marking the beginning of the end of drunk driving.

The “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” section of the Infrastructure bill mandates an advanced vehicle technology standard that is expected to prevent more than 9,400 drunk driving deaths annually, according to a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Today’s vote is monumental because it will virtually eliminate the No. 1 killer on America’s roads,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “On behalf of the 1 million victims of drunk driving that MADD has served, I want to thank our legislative heroes in the House and Senate who fiercely fought for us and said these tragedies must stop.”

The Senate passed the Infrastructure Bill in August. With today’s passage by the House, the bill goes to President Biden to sign into law.

The historic vote comes a week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an estimated 20,160 people died on America’s roads in the first half of 2021, an 18.4% increase over the first half of 2019. The rise in traffic deaths is due in large part to speeding, impaired driving and not wearing seatbelts, according to NHTSA.

“We need technology to stop the nightmare on our roads,” Otte said. “Existing technologies and those in development will stop the hazardous driving behavior of people who refuse to make the right choice themselves.”

The legislation directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to initiate a rulemaking process and set the final standard within three years for impaired driving safety equipment on all new vehicles. NHTSA will evaluate technologies that may include:

  • Driving performance monitoring systems that monitor the vehicle movement using cameras and sensors that are outside the vehicle, such as lane departure warning and attention assist;
  • Systems that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, typically using a camera or other sensors that are inside the vehicle;
  • Alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.

Automakers are then given two to three years to implement the safety standard. New cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027.

The push for a drunk driving prevention technology standard for all new vehicles was led in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who introduced the HALT (Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate Drunk Driving) Act in memory of Issam and Rima Abbas and their three children Ali, Isabella and Giselle of Michigan, who were killed by a drunk driver while driving home from vacation in January 2019. Original co-sponsors were David McKinley (R-WV) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY). The Senate version of the bill, the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act, was led by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) with co-sponsorship from Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“We are so grateful for the bold and aggressive leadership in support of this historic, lifesaving legislation by the bill sponsors in the House and Senate,” Otte said. “We will never forget their compassion toward victims and their commitment to ending drunk driving forever.”

In 2019, more than 10,000 people were killed and 300,000 others injured in drunk driving crashes. Preliminary NHTSA estimates for 2020 show alcohol-related deaths spiked by 9% compared to 2019, even as vehicle miles traveled plummeted by more than 430 billion miles.

For more information about the legislation and vehicle technology to stop drunk driving, please visit madd.org/HALT/RIDEAct.

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 more than 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.