As part of a US$17 billion investment into automotive safety, the United States wants to stop drink driving for good
The Biden administration is planning to spend a massive US$1 trillion (A$1.38 trillion) on infrastructure in the US. As part of this large investment, US$17 billion will go towards road safety – the biggest investment in years.
In the first half of 2021 alone, 20,160 people have died in traffic-related accidents in the US – a staggering amount considering Australia had 1094 road deaths in 2020.
The USA currently has a population of 329.5 million people, whereas Australia has a small population of just 25.6 million people – which is just 7.78 percent of the size of the USA. However, the US has a relatively high road toll rate per 100,000 people of 15.8 when compared to Australia’s 4.7. So it is clear something must be done to combat America’s road toll.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 10,000 people are killed in the US every year from alcohol-related crashes.
The passing of the infrastructure bill means the US has mandated that from 2026 onwards, technology in cars needs to be able to “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired”. Think of it like a driver interlock used in Australia, but for every car on the market.
Drivers will not need to blow into a tube to test their blood alcohol limit. Instead, cameras will likely be able to detect driver eye movements and reaction time in order to tell whether a person is over the legal limit or not.
Drivers are likely to object to wanting to blow into a tube before they start their car so automatic infrared cameras are a more efficient solution.
Since 2013, French drivers have had to carry a breath test device with them in their car at all times and can be fined if travelling without one. However, in 2020, the law was scrapped, with the French government saying it was ineffective in stopping drunk driving. That is where autonomous systems come in.
Driver monitors are already finding their way into many new cars today including those from BMW, Hyundai, Subaru and Nissan. They help prevent driving when overtired by monitoring a driver’s eye contact with the road. If the driver falls asleep, some cars are able to alert the driver with a warning, apply the brakes or even pull the car safely to the side of the road.
The systems can also recognise driver drowsiness, impairment and consciousness.
The safety bill also called for mandatory rear-seat reminders to alert parents if they have left their child in the back seat. Since 1990, around 1000 children have died due to being locked in hot cars.
The US Congress also directed its attention toward making autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warnings mandatory on all new vehicles produced.
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