Drunk driving alert, hot car monitors may be required under $1T bill

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Drunk driving ignition locks may become standard on all cars in the next few years under one of the provisions baked into the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill.

The 2,702-page bill under negotiation also includes a provision that would require manufacturers to equip new vehicles with an alert system to let drivers know that kids or other passengers have been left in the backseat after the engine has been turned off.

The new technologies would target alcohol-related car crashes and increasing incidents of kids dying in hot cars.

The bill doesn’t specify the type of alcohol ignition locks, such as the Breathalyzer-like test required of some people convicted of driving under the influence. But it defines the preventative technology as anything that could “passively and accurately detect” if someone’s blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.

“To ensure the prevention of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology must be standard equipment in all new passenger motor vehicles,” the bill states.

If the bill becomes law as written, the secretary of transportation would have several years to implement the rule – with a specific process for notification to officials if there are any delays.

There were more than 10,000 alcohol-related driving deaths in 2019, the text of the bill reads and alcohol is estimated to be a factor in a third of all highway fatalities.

Mother fastening baby to child safety seat inside car
According to data, 53 children died of car-related heat strokes in 2018 and 2019.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports children dying from heat stroke in cars is on the rise, with 893 hot car deaths since 1998.

Fifty-three kids died of car-related heat strokes in both 2018 and 2019, the administration said. Last year, 25 died and another 10 have died this year so far, according to the data. The majority happen because the children are forgotten, according to the administration.

The infrastructure bill comes with provisions to study “unattended passenger” alerts in newly manufactured vehicles, and would direct grants for states for an education campaign on the risks of leaving kids in cars.

The technically “shall include a distinct auditory and visual alert” the bill states.

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