You would never know it from the headlines that greet you every morning, but 2022 will mark changes to many laws governing penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Many states have implemented such changes in order to strengthen existing laws. You might see a stronger police presence on the roads during the holidays. You might see more checkpoints where none existed before.
One bipartisan $78 billion transportation bill currently sitting in Congress is aimed at reducing the number of DUI fatalities. Tens of thousands of people are killed in automobile accidents every year, 10,000 of which are the result of alcohol.
The bill is part of the larger $1 trillion infrastructure package. $17 billion has been set aside for auto safety. The bill’s language says that all vehicles made starting in 2026 must include technology to “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.”
Those convicted of DUI will know that similar technologies — albeit not passive ones — already exist and are in use. Sometimes those convicted must use a breathalyzer attached to the vehicle before the car will unlock. Fail the breathalyzer and you cannot drive the car. But new technologies would need to be developed to make the same system work passively.
What you might not already know is that several automakers are already working on it. BMW, General Motors and Nissan are trying to make cars with infrared cameras that check for inattentiveness or impairment to save lives. If the driver shows signs of impairment, a warning sounds. Continue the behavior, and the warning becomes louder. If the behavior continued after that, then the car would automatically trip the hazard lights, decelerate, and pull to the side of the road. No word on whether or not the authorities would automatically be called.
Other safety features (like emergency braking) that are mostly standardized already will become so by law.