Drunk driving is a serious issue facing legislators and policymakers. How can you fix something that is different in every case? Finding solutions to these issues can prove beneficial for everyone but difficult to implement. With the passage of infrastructure bill HR 3684, legislators hope that providing additional regulations and safety rules will help save lives. The infrastructure legislation includes a provision that requires new cars to be equipped with lifesaving drunk driving prevention technology. It’s shocking to realize that much of this technology has been around for years, but it’s never made it into cars until the federal government intervened. The regulations required by the new infrastructure bill include drunk driving provisions and other safe driving features like automated emergency braking and advanced headlights. Many of these features should be standard on cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) researchers found that of the over 20,000 deaths on US roadways last year, impaired driving was the primary issue. After basic impairment, drunk-driving was the second leading cause of fatal crashes. They estimate that over 10,000 people die each year from drunk driving, and many of those fatalities could be prevented by improvements to automobiles.
The Future of Driver Safety and Automotive Industry Regulations
The infrastructure legislation means the NHTSA will start working on a framework outlining the technological improvements required in new cars moving forward. The timeframe for the NHTSA’s part of the project is anywhere from three to six years. Automotive companies will have two to three years to implement the required changes. Non-profit organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have helped the regulators identify the best available drunk driving prevention technology on the market. Because of this new legislation, many features like lane departure warnings will become standard features in automobiles.
Sadly, the number of traffic fatalities increased last year, and many were caused by issues like speeding, distracted driving, and impairment. With the number of fatalities increasing, finding an effective means of roadway safety is imperative. Public safety officials in 30 states have been working on drunk driving prevention programs that target first-time offenders. Automotive features like breathalyzers and ignition locks have been implemented to prevent drunk driving accidents. This change is a marked improvement in a category screaming for safety changes. NHTSA and automakers have disagreed in the past about adding these drunk driving prevention features.
Opinions have varied among stakeholders about the progress of the research into these features, with the automakers showing a long history of fighting changes to their product. Automobile manufacturers fought the addition of seatbelts, airbags, and other safety features that have gone on to save thousands of lives. Proponents of the drunk driving requirements hope that these additions to automobiles will be as successful as past additions.
Commercial Trucking Industry Changes Ahead
Changes are headed to the commercial trucking industry, too. The infrastructure bill will also include provisions to make the trucking industry safer for truck drivers and others using roadways.
Improvements to truck safety will come in the way of additional features and more robust safety testing for future additions. Rear underride guard regulations will be updated, and the bill requires feasibility
testing for side underride guards. The testing will allow industry leaders and regulators to explore the most beneficial improvements before implementation. Rear underride guards have been on trucks for many years now, and the industry supports continued improvements to strengthen safety measures that prevent people from dying under commercial trucks. Lastly, the infrastructure bill hopes to encourage industry self-regulation. There is a provision regulating automatic emergency braking on all types of trucks, but the bill stops short of requiring changes. NHTSA officials are hopeful that industry leaders will see these regulations as an endorsement of a lifesaving technology that could improve the industry and protect roadways.
Big Changes are Often Gradual and Slower Than Expected
It may seem as if progress in this industry is moving slowly, but automotive safety organizations have partnered with government agencies like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to create many of the most effective safety measures used on roadways today. The true test of whether these measures succeed or fail will come down to how many fatalities are averted. The need for research and continued study often means a slower rollout than safety regulators would prefer. Still, for improvements in the trucking industry or passenger vehicles to be effective, the buy-in of all parties is of supreme importance. These most recent safety provisions resulted from a five-year push by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee.
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