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Bipartisan Congressional bills aim for drunk driving tech in vehicles

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are more than 240 current forms of vehicle technology - like lane assist or driver monitoring - which could be used to combat drunk driving by, in some cases, reprogramming that tech to safely pull an impaired driver over.
Katie Snyder Evans was killed by a drunk driver just weeks after giving birth to premature twin daughters four years ago.
Drinking and Driving
Posted at 1:26 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 15:47:09-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The photo says it all. It shows a beaming Katie Snyder Evans, weeks after giving birth nearly four years ago, finally able to hold her premature twin daughters together for the first time.

It was also the last time.

“On her way home from the hospital, one night after visiting the twins, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver, “ said Ken Snyder, Katie’s father.

Snyder is on the faculty of Utah State University and is now a technology adviser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I'll admit that I'm not an independent commentator on this topic,” he said. “I am a grieving father.”

His latest focus is on two bills with bipartisan sponsors in Congress: the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate, which are looking to tap into technology to prevent drunk driving.

“The goal is to mandate drunk driving prevention technology as standard as seat belts and airbags on all new passenger vehicles,” said MADD president Alex Otte.

According to MADD, there are currently 241 forms of vehicle technology, like lane assist or driver monitoring, which could be used to combat drunk driving by, in some cases, reprogramming that tech to safely pull an impaired driver over.

The bills in Congress seek to create federal rules so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could begin that process.

“It would require NHTSA to figure out what the best technology is,” Otte said. “The bill is tech-neutral, which means that they can look at all the different options and decide what they believe is best and then mandate that technology to be placed on all new cars.”

For its part, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a major auto industry group, said it would like to keep working on it. They declined to do an interview but provided a statement.

“We share the goal of eliminating alcohol-impaired driving. Automakers are working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other stakeholders, to develop innovative technologies that have the potential to prevent alcohol-impaired driving,” AAI president John Bozzella said in the statement. “We are also committed to working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, members of Congress, and other stakeholders who also prioritize this life-saving goal, as legislation is developed.”

However, the prevention of drunk driving comes too late for many families, including Ken Snyder’s.

“The woman that killed my daughter was driving 95 miles an hour on a city boulevard,” he said. “The veering, the sideswiping, the lane-changing, any one of any one of the simple technologies that are already available on cars would have shut her down if only activated.”

The hope is the technology will help other families from experiencing the loss of a loved one due to drunk driving.