The National Transportation Safety Board has released a call for automotive regulators to require the inclusion alcohol impairment detection systems in all newly manufactured vehicles. According to a press release by the agency, the call resulted from an NTSB investigation into a January 2021 crash in Avenal, California, in which the driver was impaired and which killed nine people, including seven children.
As the press release explains, the crash was a head-on collision involving an SUV and a pickup truck. The agency’s probe found that “the SUV driver had a high level of alcohol intoxication and was operating at an excessive speed,” leading to a loss of control. “Driving under the influence of alcohol remains a leading cause of injury-involved highway crashes,” the NTSB added. “Since 2000, more than 230,000 people have lost their lives in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers according to NHTSA. In 2020, an estimated 11,654 fatalities occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes.”
The NTSB is specifically recommending that new vehicles be required by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to include technologies like “vehicle-integrated alcohol impairment detection systems, advanced driver monitoring systems or a combination of the two that would be capable of preventing or limiting vehicle operation if it detects driver impairment by alcohol.” It additionally recommends incentives for consumers and manufacturers to use speed-limiting systems.
In a statement included in the press release, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said: “Technology could’ve prevented this heartbreaking crash—just as it can prevent the tens of thousands of fatalities from impaired-driving and speeding-related crashes we see in the U.S. annually. We need to implement the technologies we have right here, right now to save lives.”
“We have to remember that technology is only part of the solution,” she added. “To save lives on our roads, we need to look more broadly at the entire transportation system, which includes everything that can prevent a crash.”
As a report by the Associated Press explains, the NTSB has no regulatory authority and can only call upon other regulators to take action. In this case, the NTSB is putting pressure on the NHTSA, which it has reportedly “been pushing… to explore alcohol monitoring technology since 2012.” If the NHTSA indeed takes action, according to the Associated Press, regulations could be in place in three years.