The Congress of the United States has ordered regulators to demand that new vehicles should include technology capable of detecting if someone has drunk alcohol before getting behind the wheel. If the driver is over the legal limit, the car won’t start. They call it an ignition interlock. And it’s a logical development: in 2019 in that country, more than 10,000 people died in crashes that involved a drunk driver. Drunk driving is one of the main causes of deaths in motor accidents, and not just in the United States.
But it appears that this country will be a pioneer in fighting this scourge. It will do so in its future infrastructures law, which seeks to upgrade and improve the design of highways by financing projects that prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
The rate of deaths on the highway had been dropping for some time. Regulation, vehicles that are better engineered, and improved roads have achieved this since the 1960s. But in the past decade, that trend has stalled. And now it appears that technology could help it get going again.
A recent study by the Insurance Institute of America for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that a breathalyzer that functioned like a car key could reduce deaths by 9,400 people per year in the United States if applied to all vehicles. But it will take years for this reduction to occur, because this new technology will not become obligatory until 2026.
In Europe, things are moving in the same direction. To unify the manufacture of new cars and commercial vehicles, the European norms will demand that starting on July 6, 2022, they integrate nine advanced systems to assist drivers, among them the ignition interlock device. Starting on that date, no vehicle will be approved without these driving aids. And none will be allowed to leave the points of sale without them after July 7, 2024.
There are other figures that support the use of the ignition interlock. A 2019 study by the European Transport Safety Council claimed that during the previous year it would have been possible to avoid “at least 5,000 deaths if all the drivers had been sober.” Just a few years ago that hypothesis would have been impossible. New technology is making this ever closer. It only remains for government bodies and manufacturers to do their job. And it looks like they have started.