Infrastructure Bill to Combat Drunk Driving by Requiring Alcohol Monitoring Technology

The bipartisan Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) seeks to combat drunk driving by requiring all new passenger vehicles be equipped with Advanced Alcohol Monitoring Technology. The drive behind this section of the 2702-page IIJA was led by Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. MADD also played a significant role in the development of this law.

However, until now, their efforts have focused on requiring all first-time drunk driving offenders to use Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIID). The IIJA instead focuses on different type of technology and this technology will be required in all passenger vehicles, regardless of whether the driver has ever been charged with drunk driving.

Congresswoman Dingell and MADD’s combined efforts bore fruit on November 15, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed into IIJA into law. Section 24220 of the Act is entitled “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” (AIDP) and requires that “drunk and impaired driving prevention technology” become standard equipment in all new passenger motor vehicles.

What is Advanced Impaired Driving Technology?

The IIJA does not answer this central question, and consequently, the specific form of the required technology remains ambiguous. There are two parameters contained in the IIJA.  The AIDT must passively monitor either the driver’s performance, or the driver’s blood alcohol concentration.

Specifically, section 24220(b) of the IIJA obliquely defines what is meant by advanced drunk or impaired driving prevention technology. Section 24220(b)(1)(A)(i) only indicates that if a driver’s performance “suggests impairment,” then the technology must prevent or limit motor vehicle operation.

Section 24220(b)(1)(B)(ii) additionally indicates that if the technology determines that the blood alcohol concentration of “a driver” of a motor vehicle is at or above the legal limit it must likewise prevent or limit the operation of a motor vehicle.

Regarding the applicable “legal limit,” section 24220(b)(1)(B)(i) references 163(a) of title 23, United States Code, which in turn identifies .08 as the applicable legal limit.

The IIJA provides that the Secretary of Transportation is required to develop the regulations necessary to bring meaning and clarity to the technology that will eventually be utilized for this purpose. For more information about what this technology might look like, see our companion article entitled What Technology Will Infrastructure and Jobs Act Use to Stop Drunk Driving.

How Will the Technology “Prevent” and “Limit” the Operation of the Motor Vehicle?

Again, this important question remains unanswered by the IIJA, and will need to be defined and set forth by the rule promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation. It appears however that for those instances when the driver’s blood alcohol is determined to be above the legal limit, the technology will prevent to car from being started. In those cases where the driver’s performance suggests impairment, or where a blood alcohol level has risen, during driving, to above the legal limit, then car will be gradually disabled. Presumably, this will begin with the driver being alerted to the situation and given the option of voluntarily bringing the vehicle to a stop. If the driver does not respond appropriately, then autonomous driving features will presumably take over operation of the vehicle, and involuntarily bring the vehicle to a stop.

Much work is yet to be done before consumers will be able to purchase vehicles equipped with advanced impairment detection technology. This will begin with the Secretary of Transportation drafting the appropriate language for inclusion in the Federal motor vehicle safety standards found in section 30111 of title 49, United States Code.

For information on the timeline involved, see our post: Advanced Impaired Driving Technology Could Begin Stopping Drunk Drivers in Two Years.

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