Congress Mandates Car Technology to Prevent Drunk Driving

Since cars were invented and vehicles became ubiquitous throughout the nation in the early and mid-20th century, drunk driving has been a concern.  But only when fatalities from drunk driving accidents continued to increase year-by-year and people became fed up with the carnage that stricter laws and enforcement were implemented.  Notwithstanding numerous media campaigns about the dangers of drunk driving, states including Massachusetts have seen little progress in preventing needless deaths from impaired drivers.

For example, in the first six months of 2021, the nation experienced over 20,000 deaths in traffic accidents, the highest total in this span of time since 2006.  Each year, some 10,000 adults and children are killed by drunk drivers, which accounts for nearly 30% of all traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Among teen and young adult drivers, impaired driving remains a major factor in deaths. 

Drunk Driving Car Accidents

Congress, though, is attempting to change that with passage of the administration’s massive infrastructure bill that includes a mandate for auto manufacturers to begin installing new car technology by 2026 that specifically targets fatigued and impaired drivers. The technology includes an infrared camera that monitors the driver’s behavior and looks for inattentiveness. When a driver is seen not to be looking at the road for a period of time due to fatigue, distraction, or impairment, a system will warn the driver.  If the behavior continues, flashing or hazard lights will come on, the car will slow, and will automatically pull over to the side of the road. 

Currently, many states require drivers convicted of a drunk driving offense to install an ignition interlock system whereby a car will only start after the driver blows into the device, and also at certain intervals while the car is operating. Some drivers can get around or avoid this device. Since the device is not on vehicles where drivers have no drunk driving conviction or have had their driving privileges fully reinstated, there is no way to monitor their behavior after they have been drinking. 

Other Technology to Reduce Deaths

Another factor in auto-related deaths is that of parents who for some reason leave their toddler strapped into their seat while they shop, visit, or perform some other errand.  Since 1990, over 1,000 children have died from heat stroke after being left in the rear seat.  New technology will instantly alert the driver that the child is still in the rear seat.

Other systems include automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings. The former is a feature that many manufacturers are already making standard as part of a voluntary plan implemented during the Obama administration. 

For pedestrians and bicyclists, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touted his “Safe Streets & Roads for All” program that supports the Vision Zero effort that many cities and states have begun that targets zero traffic fatalities by mid-century.  This includes roundabouts to slow traffic, widened sidewalks, new bike paths, restricted vehicle access to roads, and encouraging people to use public transportation. The $1 trillion dollar program requires states to use at least 15% of its highway safety improvement program funds to address the safety of pedestrians and all non-motorized road users if such groups comprise at least 15% of that state’s traffic fatalities. 

The safety of our motorists and pedestrians should be paramount, but Congress and the states have been slow in addressing the concerns of safety experts who, while applauding these measures, are lamenting a missed opportunity to have targeted more forcefully the epidemic of fatal car and pedestrian accidents from poorly designed roads and vehicle technology that even though available, have not been made standard.  For example, mandatory rear seat belt reminders have not been installed in vehicles despite their long availability. Wearing a seat belt reduces the chances of suffering a serious injury by 50% and death by 45%. You are also 30% more likely to be ejected from a vehicle in case of a crash if you are not restrained. Experts also pointed out the backlog of other safety regulations ordered by Congress 10-years ago, and that the NHTSA needs to get moving if we are to see progress in decreasing road and vehicle fatalities. 

Damages in Car Accident Injury Claims 

At Burns and Jain, a car accident attorney will handle your injury caused by a negligent or impaired driver and thoroughly investigate your accident and damages and address any concerns or defenses that insurance companies will assert. 

Damages are an essential part of any injury claim and demonstrating and proving them is the function of an experienced car accident attorney so that you can be fairly compensated for your losses and pain and suffering. Damages typically include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Decreased earning capacity
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain 

At Burns and Jain, we value our clients and give each one the same dedication and resources so that you and your family are adequately compensated. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury or wrongful death claim. 

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