NHTSA Takes First Step Toward Standardizing Drunk Driving Detection Tech in New Cars

The agency initiated an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to gather information concerning detection technology, safe deployment methods and other data.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving forward with plans to make alcohol-impairment detection technology standard in new passenger vehicles, addressing a critical issue highlighted by the alarming statistics of drunk driving-related fatalities.

NHTSA initiated an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), in accordance with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and alignment with the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) National Roadway Safety Strategy.

The ANPRM is a pivotal step towards establishing technology standards for alcohol impairment detection, making it a standard component in all new passenger vehicles once the technology reaches maturity. 

This announcement coincides with NHTSA's launch of its annual holiday season campaign, "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over," which aims to raise awareness about the perils of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol impairment remains one of the leading causes of road fatalities in the U.S., with 13,384 lives lost in drunk driving accidents in 2021 alone.

NHTSA estimates fatalities, injuries and property damage resulting from alcohol-impaired driving cost the nation $280 billion. Impaired driving prevention technology is a critical element in the National Roadway Safety Strategy, designed to significantly reduce fatalities and severe injuries on American roads, ultimately striving for zero traffic deaths by implementing vehicle features that prioritize driver safety.

"It is tragic that drunk driving crashes are one of the leading causes of roadway fatalities in this country, and far too many lives are lost," said Polly Trottenberg, USDOT deputy secretary. She applauded the NHTSA's proactive stance.

"Impaired driving crashes are 100% preventable---there's simply no excuse or reason to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs," said Ann Carlson, NHTSA's acting administrator.

The ANPRM aims to gather information concerning the state of impaired driving detection technology, safe deployment methods and other crucial data to facilitate the development of a standard for preventing driver impairment. This move is in direct response to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which directs NHTSA to establish a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard mandating "advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology" in new passenger vehicles.

Despite the preventable nature of impaired driving incidents, the month of December witnessed a nearly 15-year high in alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2021. To educate and caution drivers during the holiday season, NHTSA will promote the slogans "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI." This campaign will be supported by a $14 million national media effort, including TV, radio and digital ads in both English and Spanish. Additionally, new English and Spanish TV advertisements focusing on alcohol-impaired driving will debut.

To further enhance awareness and enforcement, law enforcement officers across the nation will intensify their efforts from Dec. 13 through Jan. 1 with activities such as sobriety checkpoints and community outreach.

It is important to note driving under the influence of any substance, whether legal or illegal, is against the law in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. NHTSA urges everyone to plan ahead, especially during holiday celebrations, and to never drive under the influence. Designating a sober driver, using public transportation or calling a ride-hailing service or taxi are recommended alternatives. Furthermore, communities often have sober ride programs available during the holidays, and individuals are encouraged to report impaired drivers by calling 911.

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