What just happened? The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider requiring all new vehicles to have in-vehicle alcohol detection technology that would limit or prevent disabled drivers from operating their vehicles.
The recommendation comes after an investigation into a 2021 New Year’s Day plane crash in Avignal, California, that killed nine people, including seven children. According to the NTSB report, an SUV traveling between 88 and 98 mph crossed the center line in continuous traffic and collided with a pickup truck operated by a driver and seven passengers.
The driver of the SUV had a high incidence of alcohol intoxication and was a speeder.
NTSB President Jennifer Homedy He said Technology could have prevented the accident, “just as it can prevent tens of thousands of deaths from driving accidents and speed-related disability that we see in the United States annually.”
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a major cause of injury-related highway accidents. Since 2000, more than 230,000 people have died in accidents involving disabled drivers. In 2020 alone, an estimated 11,654 deaths – or about 30 percent of all traffic deaths that year – were from drunk drivers.
In addition, the NTSB is concerned with lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit to 0.05 g/dL or less.
The agency is also concerned about speed. In 2020, 11,258 deaths were caused by at least one driver who was speeding. The NHTSA said speed increases the chances of a crash and the severity of injuries.
Both issues on NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. As such, the NTSB has also called for a strategy to eliminate speed-related accidents by combining traditional measures such as regulation and enforcement with technology-based speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation technology.
Should new vehicles be equipped with alcohol detection systems and additional speed limiters? Would it be fair to ask non-drinkers and those in no hurry to pay extra for systems that would do nothing but annoy them? Even if such measures are enforced, it will likely be many years before they are implemented, and by that time, self-driving technology may be far enough away to repeal it completely.