Bipartisan infrastructure bill could require cars to include anti-drunk driving technology

The legislation also calls for backseat child alarms.

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Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks after a bipartisan meeting of U.S. senators with U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the proposed framework for the infrastructure bill, at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERSKevin Lamarque
Kevin Lamarque / reuters

Nestled in President Biden’s sprawling 2,702-page Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a provision that could one day require vehicles sold in the US to come with a feature that detects when someone gets behind the wheel of their car drunk. First spotted by Reuters, the clause orders the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to study the feasibility of various alcohol-detection systems and establish a final set of rules within three years. After that period, automakers would have 24 months to comply with the new regulation.

The provision doesn’t lay out the exact technologies NHTSA should explore other than to say the final product should “passively monitor” a driver to “accurately identify” whether they can drive their car safely. If the agency doesn’t finalize a set of rules within 10 years, it will have to detail the hurdles it encountered in a report to Congress.

An anti-drunk driving technology isn’t the only new safety feature the bill could require automakers to implement in their vehicles. Per Bloomberg, other parts of the legislation would mandate automatic emergency braking, the inclusion of crash avoidance systems in new cars and alerts that would remind drivers to check the back seats of their vehicle after exiting it. That last feature would ideally help prevent parents from leaving their kids in a car on a hot day.

The push to use technology to address drunk driving isn’t surprising. According to a 2020 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cars with built-in alcohol-detection systems could save as many as 9,000 lives in the US every year. Over the past decade, drunk driving played a part in 30 percent of all roadway deaths.

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