The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended for all new vehicles in the U.S. to become equipped with blood alcohol monitoring systems that can stop an intoxicated person from driving. The initiative was launched after the release of a report of a motor vehicle accident that took place last year and in which a drunk driver collided head-on with another vehicle near Fresno, California, resulting in the deaths of two adult drivers and seven children.
If this recommendation becomes enacted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it could help to decrease the number of alcohol-related crashes, which is currently one of the biggest causes of highway deaths in the U.S. Furthermore, the recommendation also calls for the in-built system to monitor a driver’s behaviour to ensure they are alert.
According to the NTSB, the recommendation is aimed to urge NHTSA to take action, and could be effective in three years at the earliest. “We need NHTSA to act. We see the numbers,” said NTSB Chairperson Jennifer Homendy in her interview with WEAU 13 News. “We need to make sure that we’re doing all we can to save lives.” Moreover, NHTSA has stated that roadway deaths in the U.S. are at “crisis levels”. Almost 43,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents over the last year in the U.S., which is the highest number in 16 years, as Americans resumed driving after COVID-19 lockdowns.
NTSB has hired a Swedish company to carry out research on technology that would automatically test a driver’s breath for alcohol and prevent a vehicle from moving if the driver is impaired, said Jake McCook, a spokesperson for NTSB, adding that the driver would not need to blow into a tube, and a sensor could check their breath.
Another company is working on light technology that could test for blood alcohol in a person’s finger, he said. Breath technology could be ready by the end of 2024, while the relevant touch technology would come about a year later.
NHTSA data shows that in 2020, 11,654 people died in the U.S. in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, which corresponds to 30% of all U.S. traffic deaths, and a 14% increase over the 2019 figures. In addition, early estimates demonstrate fatalities increasing in the first half of 2022, and declining over the period spanning April to June.