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NTSB: All vehicles must have a blood alcohol monitoring system

As part of an official report released by the National Transportation Safety Board in the aftermath of a crash in 2021, the NTSB recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandate blood alcohol monitoring systems. The NTSB says such systems could prevent drunk drivers from operating their vehicles and could significantly reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes in the United States.

In a marked reported incident, a drunk driver in one Journey of dodging SUV crosses the center line on the way home from New Year’s Day party and head-on collision with a Ford F-150 pickup truck, killing both the driver and seven occupants between the ages of 6 and 15. The SUV driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.21%, nearly three times the California legal limit. He also had marijuana on his system (toxicology reports suggest both drivers may have used marijuana during the day), but the agency said the alcohol was more than enough to seriously affect him. care about his driving. According to reports, the SUV was traveling between 88 and 98 miles per hour.

Based on NHTSA’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) nearly 43,000 people were killed last year, the largest number in 16 years, as Americans got back on the road after the pandemic. According to NHTSA figures, in 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-related crashes. That’s about 30% of all traffic deaths in the United States and up 14% from 2019’s figure when about 28% of all traffic deaths that year were alcohol-related.

The NTSB has no regulator and can only ask other agencies to act, but said the recommendation was made to pressure NHTSA to move. It could take effect as early as three years from now.

Under last year’s bipartisan infrastructure lawCongress requires NHTSA to force automakers to install alcohol monitoring systems within three years. The agency may apply for an extension. In the past, the issuance of such requests has been slow. The law doesn’t specifically prescribe the technology, only that it must “passively monitor” drivers to determine if they are impaired.

“We need NHTSA to act. We see the numbers,” said NTSB President Jennifer Homendy. “We need to make sure we’re doing all we can to save lives.”

The NTSB has been pushing NHTSA to explore alcohol monitoring technology since 2012, she said. “The faster this technology is deployed, the more lives can be saved,” she said.

The recommendation also calls for systems to monitor drivers’ behavior, ensuring they stay alert. Many cars now have cameras pointed at the driver, she said, which has the potential to limit impaired driving.

But Homendy said she also understands that completing the alcohol tests will take a long time. “We also know that it will take time for NHTSA to assess what technologies are available and how to develop a standard.”

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

Jake McCook, a spokesman for the group, said the team hired a Swedish company to work on technology that could automatically test a driver’s breath for alcohol levels and stop the vehicle if the driver vehicle is impaired. The driver won’t have to blow into a tube, and a sensor will check the driver’s breathing, McCook said.

Another company is working on light technology that can test the blood alcohol concentration in a person’s finger. The breath technology could be ready by the end of 2024, while the touch technology will be available about a year later.

It could take another model year or two after automakers get the technology to new vehicleMcCook said.

Once the technology is ready, it will take years for it to be on most of the roughly 280 million vehicles on US roads.

Juan Pulido, 37, whose wife and four children were killed in the crash, said he is glad the NTSB is promoting alcohol monitoring because it can prevent another person from losing loved ones. “It’s something that their family has to live with,” he said. “It won’t go away tomorrow.”

Pulido’s attorney, Paul Kiesel, said the driver monitoring system could also prevent crashes caused by medical problems or sleepiness, saving suffering and billions in hospital treatment costs. .

Materials from the Associated Press were used in this report.

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