New cars will be required to have technology to detect drunken drivers and a system to keep children from being accidentally left in vehicles on hot days under a series of long-sought safety measures included in the infrastructure bill awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Other provisions included in the 2,702-page bill are a mandate for automatic emergency braking and crash avoidance systems for new cars, and rear guards for semitrailer trucks to keep the passenger compartments of cars from being crushed in rear-impact collisions.
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, which lobbies for more stringent auto safety rules, applauded the inclusion of the measures but said more needs to be done and he hopes the House will beef up the provisions.
“There is little question our nation is long overdue for critical updates to our infrastructure especially when it comes to vehicle safety and the rising tide of preventable car crash deaths,” he said.
Although people in the U.S. drove less in 2020 because of the pandemic, an estimated 38,680 people died in traffic crashes, which is the highest number of annual deaths since 2007, according to a release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June. The number of U.S. traffic deaths rose by 7.2 percent from the previous year, despite the 13.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled.
Backers say the anti-drunken driving provisions in the measure would drastically reduce the number of deaths that occur on U.S. roads.
“This is the most significant rule making in NHTSA’s history,” Stephanie Manning, government affairs officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said. “Every year we wait, thousands of people will die.”
The provision mirrors legislation that Rep. Debbie Dingell has championed for several years. It orders NHTSA to study the feasibility of various technologies and establish a final rule within three years mandating some form of anti-drunk driving technology.