The NTSB requires all new vehicles to have their drivers checked for alcohol use.

of National Transportation Safety Board recommends that all new cars in the United States be equipped with a blood alcohol monitoring system that can stop an intoxicated person from driving.

If enacted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this recommendation could reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, one of the leading causes of death on US highways.

A new push to make the roads safer comes after a horrifying incident last year when a drunk driver collided head-on with another vehicle near Fresno, California, killing both the adult driver and seven children. It was included in the report released Tuesday on the accident.

NHTSA this week said road deaths in the U.S. crisis levelNearly 43,000 people died last year as Americans returned to the roads after stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. This is his largest number in 16 years.

Early estimates show that the number of deaths rose again in the first half of this year, but fell from April to June, and officials hope the trend will continue.

The NTSB, which has no regulator and can only call on other agencies to act, said the recommendations were intended to put pressure on NHTSA to act. Effectiveness can be seen as early as three years later.

The change could reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, one of the leading causes of death on U.S. highways.
AP/Eric Paul Zamora

“NHTSA needs to act. Let’s look at the numbers,” said NTSB President Jennifer Homendy. “We have to make sure we are doing everything we can to save lives.”

She said the NTSB has been asking NHTSA to look into alcohol-monitoring technology since 2012.

The recommendation also calls for the system to monitor driver behavior to ensure that the driver is paying attention. She said many cars now have cameras pointed at the driver, which could limit driving impairments.

But Homendy says he also understands that alcohol testing takes time to perfect. “We also know that it will take time for NHTSA to evaluate the available technologies and how to develop standards.”

A message was left for comment from NHTSA on Tuesday.

The agency and a group of 16 automakers have jointly funded research on alcohol monitoring since 2008, forming a group called Driver Alcohol Detection Systems for Safety.

The group has hired a Swedish company to research technology that will automatically test drivers for alcohol on their breath and stop vehicles from moving if the driver is disabled, said Jake, a spokesperson for the group. McCook said the driver doesn’t have to blow into the tube, the sensor checks the driver’s breath, McCook said.

Another company is working on optical technology that could test a person’s fingers for blood alcohol, he said. intend to do something.

McCook said it could take another year or two for automakers to put the technology into new vehicles.

Even when this technology is ready, it will be several years before it can be installed in most of the approximately 280 million vehicles on US roads.

Under last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, Congress required NHTSA to have automakers install alcohol monitoring systems within three years. The agency can ask for an extension. In the past, it was slow to enact such requirements.

The law does not specify the technology, only that a driver must be “passively monitored” to determine if the driver is disabled.

Alcohol-related crashes killed 11,654 people in 2020, the most recent figure available, according to NHTSA data. That’s about 30% of all U.S. road traffic deaths and a 14% increase over his 2019 figure in his final year before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the NTSB said. said.

In the fatal crash included in the report, a 28-year-old SUV driver returned home from a New Year’s Day party in 2021 after being drunk. The SUV veered off the right side of State Route 33, crossed the center line, and crashed head-on into his truck near Avenal, California, in a Ford F-150 pickup.

The pickup was bringing 34-year-old Gabriela Pulido and her seven children, ages 6 to 15, home from a trip to Pismo Beach. The truck quickly burst into flames and bystanders were unable to save the passengers, according to the NTSB.

An SUV driver has a blood alcohol level of 0.21%, almost three times the legal limit in California. He also had marijuana in his system, but officials said the alcohol was more than enough to seriously impair his driving. kilometers).

According to the NTSB, the collision occurred less than a second after the Journey re-entered the road and Pulido did not have time to avoid it.

Juan Pulido, 37, who lost his wife and four children in the crash, said he was happy the NTSB was pushing for alcohol surveillance. “That’s what their families have to live with,” he said. “It will not disappear tomorrow.”

Pulido attorney Paul Kiesel says the driver monitoring system could prevent crashes due to medical problems or drowsiness, saving pain and billions of dollars in hospital care.

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