Infrastructure package includes drunk driving prevention mandates for automakers

Advocates hope technology can save lives

SAN ANTONIO – The newly signed federal infrastructure package puts automakers on the clock. Automakers must now include technology that potentially detects intoxicated drivers as standard on all vehicles.

“A lot of people don’t know that this technology exists as an additional service when you’re purchasing your vehicle, if you want to get extra leather seats or, you know, a sunroof,” said Azeza Salama, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “It’s something along those lines where it’s an additional cost. But now at this point, we now have the support across the nation to move forward and have this mandated in the vehicles.”

MADD has been pushing for similar legislation for years, and Salama said it comes as drunk driving surged in the San Antonio region during the pandemic.

“Because at the end of the day, when a victim is affected by a drunk driver, it’s a trickle effect. You know, it’s not just the victim, it’s the victim’s family. It’s their coworkers, it’s their friends, it’s their neighbors. It’s the police officers that arrived on the scene, the first responders that maybe worked on the family members,” she said. “Why go through all of that trauma when we have the ability to save lives?”

The legislation does not mandate the exact type of technology that should be used. It could feature sensors or cameras that monitor a driver’s head or eyes. Lane departure warning systems and attention assist could become standard on all vehicles, instead of just an option. Experts told the Associated Press that breathalyzers would probably not be mandated. They’re already in use for some drivers previously convicted for driving while intoxicated.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will come up with the new rules and give automakers time to implement them. Vehicles could be equipped with the technology as soon as 2026.

People impacted by drunk driver can call MADD 24 hours a day at 1-877-MADD-HELP (1-877-623-3435).

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About the Author:

Samuel King anchors traffic during GMSA and reports on transportation and mobility issues across the San Antonio region. He joined the KSAT 12 news team in 2020 from KUT in Austin. Samuel was born in Queens, spent time growing up in South Alabama and graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.