NTSB recommends alcohol detection systems in new vehicles

Sept. 26, 2022
'The faster the technology is implemented the more lives that will be saved.'

After an investigation into a car crash that killed nine people, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for impairment detection systems in all new vehicles. The goal of these technologies would not only be to limit or prohibit impaired drivers from operating their vehicles, but also to prevent speeding. 

With no regulatory authority though, the NTSB is putting pressure on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make this happen. The technology could be seen in vehicles as early as three years from now. 

“We need NHTSA to act. We see the numbers,” NTSB Chairman Jennifer Homendy said. “We need to make sure that we’re doing all we can to save lives.”

According to the NHTSA, in 2020, an estimated 11,654 fatalities occurred due to alcohol-impaired crashes and 11,258 fatalities occurred in crashes where at least one driver was speeding. These numbers continue to increase, as in 2021 around 43,000 fatalities occurred in roadway-related accidents. The highest that number has been in 16 years.

"The faster the technology is implemented the more lives that will be saved," Homendy said.

Multiple companies are working on technology to bring the NTSB's recommendation to fruition, but even after the technology is developed it will take time before it begins to appear in vehicles and longer still for the technology to be present in the majority of about 280 million vehicles in the U.S. However, Congress is requiring automakers to install alcohol monitoring systems within three years under last year's bipartisan infrastructure law, but the NHTSA could ask for an extension. It is not explicitly stated what the technology should, only that it needs to "passively monitor" the driver to determine their level of impairment.  

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