NHTSA Takes First Step Toward Impaired Driving Prevention Standard

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that the administration says will help lay the groundwork for potential alcohol-impairment detection technology standards in all new passenger vehicles when the technology is mature.

According to NHTSA, 13,384 people in the US were killed in drink-driving crashes in 2021, with fatalities in December of that year hitting a near 15-year high. The agency estimates that fatalities, injuries, and property damage from alcohol-impaired driving costs society US$280 billion in lost wages, lost quality of life, medical costs, and more.

“It is tragic that drunk-driving crashes are one of the leading causes of roadway fatalities in this country and far too many lives are lost,” said Polly Trottenberg, the US Department of Transportation’s Deputy Secretary. “The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking we are announcing today is the first step toward a new safety standard requiring alcohol-impaired-driving prevention technology in new passenger vehicles.”

The ANPRM will help gather information about the state of technology to detect impaired driving, about how to deploy technology safely and effectively, and provide other information to further the agency’s work as the research and technology advances to the level to develop a standard to prevent driver impairment.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directs NHTSA to issue a final rule establishing a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires new passenger vehicles to have advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology. The law says that NHTSA should issue a new regulation only if it meets the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which states that a proposed standard must be reasonable, practicable, and reduce traffic crashes and associated deaths, among other factors.

The development comes after ​​​the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for alcohol impairment detection systems to be included in all new vehicles in September last year following an investigation into a California crash that killed nine people, including seven children. The crash, on New Year’s Day 2021, was caused by an impaired driver who was speeding, the NTSB found.