NM Senator MADD pushes technology to prevent drunk driving


Anti-drunk driving organizations and 10 US Senators questioned the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the implementation of safety provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act of 2021.

Passed last November, the legislation included the “Reduce Disabled Driving for All” (RIDE) legislation drafted by US Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.) and US Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), to implement drunken and impaired technology on new vehicles.

Lujan and the nine other Democratic senators called on the National High Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to take swift action to enact safety regulations to curb drunk and impaired driving.

“Sen. Luján has urged NHTSA to take strong action to make our streets safer, including fighting for substantial advances RIDE Act Implement and prevent side and rear underride crashes,” said a press release from Lujan and the other senators.

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Alex Otte, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said the longer NHTSA waits to roll out new technology, the more people could be killed or injured by drunk or impaired drivers.

The RIDE Act requires the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to issue new motor vehicle safety standards by 2024 that will result in systems in vehicles that prevent driver disruptions by 2027.

Driving performance monitoring, driver monitoring and alcohol detection are three categories of technology that NHTSA could implement, according to Otte.

“So many of the technological options have impairments. Rather or not, someone is sure to operate a vehicle. The fact that technology will be able to determine whether or not someone can safely operate a vehicle and get that person off the roadway so they can’t kill someone is something we’re grateful and excited about.” she said.

Alcohol-related accidents in New Mexico increased from 4.5 percent in 2018 to 5.5 percent in 2020, according to a New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) study produced by the University of New Mexico’s Department of Geospatial and Population Studies .

According to the study, alcohol-related road deaths fell from 40.2 percent in 2018 to 36.7 percent in 2020.

“There will always be people out there who will continue to make the decision to drive drunk,” Otte said.

“Essentially what this technology will do is take away the power of the driver to hurt and kill people. If someone refuses to make the right decision, the car can do it for them by deciding whether or not they can safely drive a vehicle,” she said.

More:US Senator Ben Ray Lujan welcomes DWI preventive measures in Biden’s infrastructure bill

According to the study, the number of drunk-driving accidents in southeastern New Mexico was lower than in the state’s northwestern and northern counties in 2020, according to the study.

Lincoln County had 20 accidents, Otero County had 53 accidents, Lea County had 65 accidents, Eddy County had 70 accidents and Chaves County had 77, according to the study.

Bernalillo, New Mexico’s largest county, had 613 alcohol-related accidents in 2020. San Juan had 157 accidents and McKinley 127.

Cindy Sharif, coordinator of Eddy County’s DWI program, said automakers have been looking for ways to improve safety features for decades, supporting senators’ and MADD’s efforts to improve advanced technologies for impaired driving and intoxication.

She said DWI and compromised driving safety stem from the person behind the wheel.

“All drivers must be alert, aware, unimpaired and driving defensively. We all share these roads and are all involved in the effort to improve road safety. It is up to us individually and collectively to make the decision to drive safely. Lives depend on it,” said Sharif.

In their letter, the senators called on NTHSA to act and implement the safety features enacted in the 2021 legislation.

“Too many times regulators have crawled through amber lights or stopped at red lights when passing new security measures. By passing historic, bipartisan infrastructure legislation, Congress gave NHTSA the green light to step on the gas pedal to reduce traffic deaths,” the letter said.

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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or email [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.