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Can technology put an end to drunk driving?

Despite continuing efforts to discourage drunk driving, the dangerous and illegal practice continues. DUI laws have become more severe over time. Yet, for many, the deterrent isn’t stopping an alarmingly increasing number of those who break the law and put fellow drivers at risk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that more than 20,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first half of this year. That statistic represents the highest six-month total in 15 years. Annually, drunk driving kills about 10,000 people nationwide, accounting for nearly one-third of traffic-related deaths.

Escalating road fatalities bring action

Congress is taking a different approach to drunk driving by mandating that technology in newly manufactured cars will stop a vehicle’s operation if the driver is under the influence of alcohol. The new mandate is part of the recently enacted infrastructure bill signed into law that designated $17 billion to road safety programs that include this initiative.

With an unprecedented level of funding, the Transportation Department will be responsible for finding the best technological monitoring systems that will prevent intoxicated drivers from operating their vehicles. Currently, the timetable will see these cars and trucks available to consumers by 2026 at the earliest.

Convicted drunk drivers already have ignition interlocks that require the driver’s use of a breathalyzer device before the vehicle is operational. While the new technology remains unknown, legislation requires that it “passively monitors” the driver’s behavior in operating the vehicle and determine if impairment caused by drugs or alcohol plays a role. Similar technology is currently being installed in cars manufactured by several prominent automakers.

Using infrared cameras to determine a driver’s attentiveness, specifically noting if eyes are on the road. In addition to impairment, the technology also determines drowsiness or loss of consciousness. At first, drivers receive warnings. Should they ignore them, hazard lights will flash as the car slows down and pulls over to the side of the road.

Drunk driving is a serious crime. However, criminal proceedings are not the only punitive measures against a negligent driver. Those who cause serious and fatal accidents need to be held accountable through a personal injury lawsuit as well.