In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 48 minutes in the United States in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Some states require drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlock devices — a breath test device connected to a vehicle’s ignition — at the driver’s own expense.
In an effort to keep even more drunk drivers off the road, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is supporting proposed federal legislation that would make advanced alcohol detection technology a standard feature on all new vehicles and fund a government test fleet of vehicles equipped with the technology.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, recently announced her proposed legislation during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. It follows a drunk driving crash in Kentucky that claimed the lives of an entire family traveling home to Michigan from a Florida vacation.
“Drunk driving stubbornly remains the number one killer on America’s roads, taking a life every 48 minutes,” MADD National President Helen Witty said. “Technology can help to eliminate this violent, senseless crime. We are grateful to Congresswoman Dingell for her leadership and relentless commitment to finding solutions that will stop these tragedies.”
For over 10 years, MADD has supported and promoted a program to research and develop passive advanced alcohol detection technologies, according to the release.
“According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, this technology could save over 7,000 lives per year,” according to the release. “MADD has challenged the auto industry to commercialize these devices to make them widely available to their customers, and Rep. Dingell’s legislation would ensure that this happens.”
Drunk driving is the largest cause of traffic fatalities, Dingell said.
“In January, our community was devastated by the passing of the Abbas family,” she said. “Around the country, too many will be torn away from their families and loved ones because of the stupid actions of others.
“Drunk driving is avoidable and preventable. Congress, industry and safety groups must work together and do everything we can to enhance safety and stop drunk driving.”
Advanced alcohol detection technology is a key element of MADD’s campaign to eliminate drunk driving, according to the release. The other elements include support for high-visibility law enforcement such as sobriety checkpoints, requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders and taking personal responsibility for always choosing a non-drinking driver when plans include alcohol.
“Since 2014, drunk driving deaths have increased by 9 percent,” Witty said. “And for the past two years in a row, almost 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. This is a public safety crisis. We cannot afford to wait any longer to get this technology in cars and start saving lives.”
Features Reporter Jessica Pounds contributed to this article.