Survey Finds Broad Public Support for Impaired Driving Prevention Technologies in New Cars

Impaired driving prevention systems in all new passenger vehicles should be mandatory, according to majority of people surveyed in a new study.

A new survey indicates there is broad public support for laws requiring impaired driving prevention technologies on all new vehicles, which could significantly reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk driving.

In a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) on April 20, researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a survey to measure how receptive the public would be to having drunk driving prevention technologies included as a standard features on all new cars.

Despite criticism from the public over similar requirements that new vehicles contain certain safety technology, the survey found that the majority of respondents supported new regulations that would require automakers to equip newer vehicles with impaired driving prevention technologies.

The survey comes as the Department of Transportation (DOT) faces a November 2024 deadline to establish new safety standards that will require all newer model vehicles to be equipped with impairment prevention devices, which are intended to reduce motor vehicle accident risks throughout the U.S.

Impaired Driving Prevention Devices Could Greatly Reduce Highway Deaths

Researchers conducted the survey by asking 2,274 U.S. adults to rate their support for a variety of proposed vehicle safety technologies mandates. The technologies rated in the survey were speed limiters, cell phone blockers, speed warnings, seat belt interlocks, fatigue warnings, and impaired driving prevention devices.

According to the results, impaired driving prevention systems are second only to fatigue warnings in terms of public support. Almost 65% of respondents supported proposed regulations that would make impaired driving prevention systems standard features on all new passenger vehicles.

The survey referenced prior studies that have found vehicle impairment prevention technologies could save over 9,000 lives per year, if installed in every passenger vehicle.

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Impaired driving is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as operating a motor vehicle while affected by alcohol and/or other drugs, including prescriptions drugs, narcotics, and some over the counter medicines. Federal officials consider impaired driving to be one of the most persistent highway safety problems.

Mandatory Impaired Driving Prevention Tech Will Likely Save Billions of Dollars

Despite years of campaigns designed to raise awareness about the drunk driving risks, and increased enforcement actions, data still shows that the number of impaired drivers killed in car crashes has increased by 16% since 2006.

Estimates suggest that drunk driving deaths involving people with blood alcohol concentrations over the legal limit account for nearly a quarter of all highway fatalities.

In an effort to stop these preventable deaths, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act of 2021 requires that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) establish a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requiring impairment prevention systems on all new cars. The DOT standard must be finalized by November 2024, and would apply to all new cars manufactured within 3 subsequent years.

The mandate is being implemented because auto makers have little financial incentive to voluntarily equip their vehicles with safety technology devices, which would increase vehicle price points and potentially drive away consumers.

Before a final regulation can be issued, the DOT must determine which specific impairment technologies are most feasible, and design corresponding tests and criteria to ensure manufacturer compliance. It must also develop a cost estimate for the mandate compared to the total economic impact of impaired driving, which the NHTSA estimates at $296 billion annually.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one such system already in the testing phase is the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).  The device is similar to breath based ignition interlocks commonly installed on vehicles by court order for those convicted of driving while impaired or intoxicated. However, unlike the court ordered devices, the DADSS system functions by analyzing driver breathing and behavior patterns to determine if they are under the influence and automatically prevents a vehicle from moving if the device determines the driver is impaired.


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