WASHINGTON — An independent group composed of auto safety experts and consumer advocates issued recommendations Tuesday to the U.S. Transportation Department as it develops a safety standard to prevent impaired driving.
A provision in the infrastructure law passed in 2021 orders NHTSA to issue a final rule by November 2024 requiring new vehicles to be equipped with an advanced impaired-driving prevention technology.
Once the rule is issued, automakers would have between two and three years to implement the technology as standard equipment in all new light-duty cars and trucks.
The technical working group’s guidance comes after months of research and aims to help NHTSA meet the statutory deadline for completing the rule-making.
Among its recommendations, the group suggests first incorporating a system into vehicles that can detect blood alcohol content and later expanding those systems to eventually detect driver impairment caused by drugs, drowsiness and distraction.
“The best driver impairment detection system will be capable of detecting a wide range of impairment types and reacting in a way that limits risk to everyone on the road, including the driver,” the group said in its guidance. “With this approach, prevention of drug-, distraction-, or fatigue-related driver impairment would not need to be required in initial years of a mandate, nor would intervening in the operation of a moving vehicle. While a comprehensive system is the target, the [technical working group] believes that the benefits of early deployment vastly exceed the value of waiting for a perfect system.”
The group was formed in 2022 to review existing technologies and others in development that could satisfy the requirement. It is co-chaired by Stephanie Manning, chief government affairs officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Jeffrey Michael, a former associate administrator at NHTSA.
“After a comprehensive review, we believe passive impaired driving prevention technology is an achievable requirement which will save lives from preventable deaths and injuries on the road,” said Michael. “Our goal is to offer federal regulators our findings regarding this complex but necessary and lifesaving requirement.”
Other participants include Nat Beuse, Aurora’s chief safety officer; Kelly Funkhouser, program manager of vehicle technology at Consumer Reports; Don Tracy, a retired Denso North America executive; and David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.