WASHINGTON — A Republican senator is trying to repeal a provision of the Infrastructure Act passed by Congress last year that would require passive technology to prevent drunk or impaired drivers from starting their vehicles.
The Infrastructure Act directs NHTSA to issue a final rule by November 2024 requiring new vehicles to be equipped with advanced drink-driving and impaired driving prevention technology. Once the rule is published, automakers would have two to three years to implement the technology as standard equipment in all new cars and light trucks.
Senator Mike Rounds, R.S.D. – which previously sought to block the provision before the bill is signed into law in November – on Wednesday introduced a bill to amend the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act and repeal the requirement. Rounds’ bill is supported by Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Automotive News contacted the three senators for comment.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving criticized Rounds’ efforts to reverse the measure, calling it “misguided legislation” that would “lead to thousands of preventable deaths and injuries every year.”
MADD National President Alex Otte said it was unclear why Rounds opposed the requirement and where the push came from.
“We know he tabled an amendment before the IIJA passed last year, and he hasn’t moved forward,” she said in a statement emailed to Automotive News. “It’s surprising that he’s working against something that could end drunk driving, especially when drunk driving deaths have increased in South Dakota and 35% of all road deaths in his state are alcohol-related, which is higher than the national average of 30 percent.”
Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said Thursday her group “strongly opposes” the Rounds bill and would “stop progress toward requiring this vital technology as standard equipment.” .
Alcohol-impaired driving deaths account for approximately one-third of all road deaths in the United States each year. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, alcohol detection systems that prevent impaired driving could save more than 9,400 lives each year.
The Automotive Innovation Alliance, a trade association that represents most major automakers, said last year that the industry had long been committed to supporting public and private efforts to tackle driving with impaired by alcohol.
For its part, the industry has worked with NHTSA to develop the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety technology, which includes a breath-and-touch-based system to measure a driver’s blood alcohol level.
“We appreciate the efforts of congressional leaders and other stakeholders to advance a legislative approach that gives NHTSA the opportunity to review all potential technologies as options for federal regulation,” said John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, in August 2021 before the infrastructure bill becomes law.
In June, an independent group of car safety experts and consumer advocates formed to help develop passive technology that could prevent drunk or impaired drivers from starting their vehicles.
The Technical Working Group is co-chaired by Stephanie Manning, MADD’s Director of Government Affairs, and Jeffrey Michael, former Associate Administrator of NHTSA.