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National Transportation Safety Board recommends all new vehicles be equipped with alcohol impairment and speed limiter technology

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Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all new vehicles come standard with alcohol impairment and speed limiter systems to reduce crashes. The guidance is in response to an investigation into a California collision that the department said could have been avoided with the implementation of available technology.

The investigated crash occurred on January 1, 2021, and involved two adults and seven children. The NTSB found that the collision was caused by an intoxicated motorist driving above the speed limit.

The impaired driver was operating a sport utility vehicle and traveling south on California’s State Route 33. Simultaneously, a pickup truck was headed north on the same road. The SUV was traveling between 88 and 98 mph when it crossed into oncoming traffic and struck the pickup truck.

As a result of the head-on crash, the truck caught fire. All eight occupants of the two vehicles died.

The NTSB argued that the collision was caused by loss of vehicle control resulting from alcohol impairment and excessive speed. The organization stated that because the SUV was traveling at a high rate of speed, the truck did not have enough time to take evasive action.

“Technology could’ve prevented this heartbreaking crash — just as it can prevent the tens of thousands of fatalities from impaired-driving and speeding-related crashes we see in the U.S. annually,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “We need to implement the technologies we have right here, right now to save lives.”

The collision investigation led the NTSB to recommend that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require all new vehicles to be equipped with systems that would prevent the ability to speed and prevent an intoxicated driver from operating a vehicle.

“To prevent alcohol and other drug-impaired driving crashes, the NTSB has called for in-vehicle alcohol detection technology, the lowering of the blood alcohol concentration limit to .05 g/dL or lower, alcohol ignition-interlock devices for people convicted of driving while intoxicated and recommended that regulators develop a standard of practice to improve drug toxicology testing,” the NTSB wrote.

The organization also recommended “a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes that combines traditional measures like enforcement and regulation with new technological advances like speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation technology.”

The NTSB noted that impaired drivers remain the leading cause of highway crashes that result in injury. In 2020, 30% of car crash fatalities were caused by intoxicated drivers, a 14% increase from the previous year.

“We have to remember that technology is only part of the solution. To save lives on our roads, we need to look more broadly at the entire transportation system, which includes everything that can prevent a crash,” said Homendy.

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