Will DUI Safety Technology be Mandatory on New Cars?

By Jonathan Blecher on July 31, 2020

Drunk-Driving Technology Can Save Lives & Reduce Arrests

10,500 highway deaths could be prevented every year. DUI-related accidents are the leading cause of highway deaths, and Florida Senator Rick Scott is ready to change that.

As such, he proposed bipartisan legislation called the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act to get advanced drunk-driving prevention technology implemented in all new vehicles. If successful, this Act could save 7,000 lives. Specifically, the RIDE Act would call on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) to require advanced drunk-driving detection to be a standard in every vehicle.

If the Act passes this year and becomes a law, this could mean that by 2024, all new vehicles could contain drunk-driving prevention technology.

Although auto companies like Volvo, Toyota and Nissan are already working towards or have already executed safety solutions to reduce drunk-driving accidents, the RIDE Act could ensure that all auto companies are on the same page.

Implications of the RIDE Act

This subject is a matter of when not if. The RIDE Act can transform auto safety and subsequently save lives, so there’s a chance this legislation, or a similar derivative of it, could pass. If not this year, then at least in the near future.

It’s not a far-fetched request to require auto companies to install safety technologies that can result in fewer DUI-related deaths. Thus, when a DUI prevention bill passes, whether it be the RIDE Act or something similar, the scope of DUI-related arrests, crashes and deaths will change for the better. This means that you may have a better chance of avoiding a DUI-related arrest thanks to your vehicle’s drunk-driving prevention technologies required by the RIDE Act. But as you may already know, technology
isn’t entirely reliable.

It’s unclear whether the RIDE Act will get passed and what impacts it will have if it does, but one thing is clear: Auto companies are slowly but surely adopting technological safety features to reduce DUI-related
dangers. Safe driving is our future, and drunk-driving prevention technology may help make that happen.

While it’s difficult to get bent out of shape over any system that curtails drunk driving, here are some other thoughts on the subject.

Consider how these devices might work. The most basic system installs an ignition interlock, forcing drivers to blow into a tube that measures their blood alcohol concentration. If they don’t pass, the car doesn’t start. This is an antiquated device, already in use for motorists repeatedly caught driving under the influence ⁠— and it can be sidestepped by having someone sober hitting the breathalyzer before our DUI suspect hits the road. Though video attached to IID’s has resolved some of that. But in older models, not so much.

New systems would undoubtedly be more effective… but also uncomfortably invasive. According to
Reuters, Udall said automakers could implement devices to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level by touching the steering wheel or engine start button. On-board cameras and sensors could also passively monitor a driver’s breath, eye-movements, and posture while tracking the vehicle for erratic behavior.

From Reuters:

The senators want to establish a pilot program for deployment of the technology by federal agencies.

NHTSA has invested over $50 million over 10 years in related technology, and equipment is already undergoing limited field testing in Maryland and Virginia, Udall said.

In March, Swedish carmaker Volvo said it planned to install cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents.

Volvo, owned by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, said intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or checking a mobile phone could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting “Volvo on Call” assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car.

U.S. lawmakers are discussing the possibility of mandating vehicles that not only keep a camera pointed at you 24/7 but also monitor your biometric data so it can all be sent… elsewhere. Granted, nobody is explicitly saying your information will be shared, but they don’t really have to, as cars grow ever more connected and automakers increasingly embrace the data-acquisition business.

At best, all of this collected data will go straight to your insurer ⁠— undoubtedly factoring into your monthly payments and earning the automaker a few bucks in the process.

Some time back I wrote an article about the future of DUI prosecutions. I predicted this over five years ago.

Since the NHTSA thinks 7,000 American lives could be saved annually via the deployment of such devices, the legislation may have some merit. But I’m more inclined to believe the juice isn’t worth the squeeze if it’s effectively going to violate the personal bubble of every single sober person on the road. Falling routinely kills more people under the age of 66 than drunk driving, but we’ve yet to require the daily wearing of parachutes and cumbersome inflatable jumpsuits. Nobody would stand for that. Ten minutes after this bill passes criminals will have figured out a way to bypass it, and instructions to do just that will appear on the internet. People will find a way around it, like buying older cars without the technology.

This is a generation where personal acceptance of responsibility has become optional, so forcing compliance may be the only way. But we’ve all seen how mandatory mask-wearing laws have been soundly ignored. However, the Uber and Lyft generation is being forced to comply with mask-wearing
to get a ride home. They’ve even made it easy.

Right now, however, all auto vehicles don’t have cohesive safety technologies, meaning drivers are still susceptible to a DUI charge. As a result, even if your car has safety features such as sensors and cameras, you could still end up in legal trouble if an officer suspects you of DUI. If you got arrested for a DUI, it’s important to retain an experienced attorney who knows what it takes to win. Thus, it’s in your best interest to contact (305) 321-3237 to get started on your defense!

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