Two U.S. senators want automakers to build technology into every new car that would, essentially, take away your key if you’ve had too many drinks.
Sens. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, and Tom Udall, Democrat from New Mexico, on Wednesday introduced the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019, known as the RIDE Act. The legislation would fund research into alcohol detection technology that could stop drivers who are over the legal limit from starting their cars.
Supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the bill could save 7,000 lives a year, according to statements from Scott and Udall.
The senators, along with Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, announced the bill at a news conference where those affected by drunken driving also spoke.
Fighting back tears, Meghan Abbas held the last pictures of her brother and his family. In January, her family of five was returning home from the holidays when a truck slammed into their car in Kentucky.
The whole family was killed. The truck driver had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit.
“They were the glue of our family. … They should all be here,” Abbas said. “Drunk driving – we need to stop it.”
The driver should never have been able to get behind the wheel in the first place, Scott said.
“Drunk driving is the number one cause of death on America’s roadways – deaths that are 100% preventable,” Scott said.
J.T. Griffin, MADD's chief government affairs officer, said the group is “going all out on this. We see this as how we are going to eliminate drunk driving.”
— MADD (@MADDOnline) October 16, 2019
The bill would jumpstart research for devices that can determine a driver’s blood-alcohol level by simply touching the steering wheel or pressing the engine start button. It would create a $10 million pilot program for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automakers to develop and implement the new technology by 2024.
The bill would “eliminate” drunken driving, MADD National President Helen Witty said at Wednesday’s event.
“People drive drunk because they can. This legislation is going to make it so they cannot,” Witty said, urging carmakers to make vehicles “part of the solution.”
Former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook said the technology could save the country as much as $200 billion a year.
“You can imagine what we could do with that funds — that money — to advance our society rather than pick up the pieces,” Claybrook said.
KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this article.