US safety agency NTSB calls for alcohol detection systems in all new vehicles

By CARSIFU | 21 September 2022


WASHINGTON: An investigation into a California crash that killed nine – including seven children – has led the National Transportation Safety Board to call for alcohol impairment detection systems to be included in all new vehicles, according to new recommendations released Tuesday.

The crash, on New Year’s Day 2021 in Avenal, California, was caused by an impaired driver who was speeding, the NTSB found.

“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 US annually,” said NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy.

“We need to implement the technologies we have right here, right now to save lives.”

As a result of the investigation, the NTSB is recommending measures leveraging new in-vehicle technologies that can limit or prohibit impaired drivers from operating their vehicles as well as technologies to prevent speeding.

These include:

> Requiring passive 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. The NTSB recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require all new vehicles to be equipped with such systems.

> Incentivising vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation systems that would prevent speed-related crashes. This is a reiteration of a previous NTSB recommendation to NHTSA.

“We have to remember that technology is only part of the solution. 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,” said Homendy, a strong supporter of the comprehensive Safe System Approach to reducing roadway deaths.

Driving under the influence of alcohol remains a leading cause of injury-involved highway crashes in the United States. Since 2000, more than 230,000 people have lost their lives in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers according to NHTSA.

Speeding is also a problem that research suggests is worsening. In 2020, there were 11,258 fatalities in crashes in which at least one driver was speeding, according to NHTSA. Speeding increases both the chances of being involved in a crash and the severity of crash injuries.

The issues of impaired driving and excessive speeding are both on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

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