NTSB recommends techniques to reduce drunk driving and speeding in new vehicles

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation for alcohol impairment detection systems is on track, after the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act gave the Transportation Department three years to craft a mandate for such a feature in new vehicles. However, the board’s re-recommendation to incentivize smart speed adaptive systems, however, has yet to gain broader federal support and may face resistance from American drivers accustomed to speed limits being enforced by law enforcement rather than the car itself.

The NTSB recommendations – which cannot be implemented without being approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – specifically include requiring all new vehicles to have “alcohol detection systems built into passive vehicles, advanced driver monitoring systems or a combination of the two.” It would be able to prevent or limit the operation of the vehicle if it detects an alcohol-related driver’s disability.”

Echoing a recommendation made in 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board also suggested that the NHTSA incentivize “vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) systems that will prevent speed-related accidents.”

Intelligent cruise control systems can range from a warning system that issues visual or audible alerts when the driver is accelerating to a system that electronically limits the vehicle’s speed. The NTSB did not specify what type of system should be adopted.

The investigation into the California crash that killed nine people, including seven children, on New Year’s Day in 2021 led to recommendations on Tuesday, according to the NTSB. The agency said investigators “found that the SUV driver (involved in the accident) had a high rate of alcohol intoxication and was running at excessive speed.”

NTSB President Jennifer Homedy said Tuesday that the technologies “could prevent tens of thousands of driving deaths and speed-related disabilities that we see in the United States annually.”

32 people die from alcohol-related crashes every day — more than 11,000 each year, according to the NHTSA. It reported that deaths rose by 5% in 2021.

There are a number of technologies aimed at preventing poor driving that are being evaluated by the Department of Transportation, according to the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The department was given three years to craft a requirement that new vehicles feature “advanced technology to prevent drunk and impaired driving” as part of the Infrastructure Act, which was passed with bipartisan support last year.

The NHTSA said in a statement Monday that it “has begun work to meet the requirements of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to establish rules regarding advanced immobilized driving technology in vehicles.”

These technologies include cameras and sensors outside the vehicle that monitor driving performance, cameras and sensors inside the vehicle that monitor the driver’s head and eyes, and alcohol sensors to determine if the driver is drunk and thus prevent the vehicle from moving.

The forthcoming regulation has raised privacy concerns and questions about whether the regulations would wrongly classify some people, such as the disabled, as intoxicated.
Intelligent cruise control has gained some traction in the European market, where it will be mandatory in all new cars sold there from July 2024. The new cars will emit either “consecutive acoustic warning,” “consecutive vibration warning,” and “haptic feedback through the pedal.” speed” or “speed control function”, according to the European Commission. The commission says the driver can bypass the ISA system.
New York City is also piloting a fleet of city vehicles with an ISA system in place. The city announced in August that 50 vehicles operated by city employees will have systems that limit the vehicle’s top speed and “will also be adaptive based on the local speed limit.” The system has an active mode, which will automatically slow the car, and a passive mode, which will alert the driver when he is going fast.

The vehicles will be modified and installed in cars across a variety of city divisions, and will also be tested on 14 all-electric Ford Macks.

This story has been updated with a comment from NHTSA.

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