March 08, 2011

Udall, Corker Introduce ROADS SAFE Act

Bill Would Promote New Technologies to Reduce Drunk Driving

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Bob Corker (R-TN) today marked "Fat Tuesday" - a day when some Americans may celebrate and make the poor choice to drive home drunk - by introducing legislation designed to reduce the number alcohol-related fatalities on America's roads through the development of new technologies to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while drunk.

The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere, or ROADS SAFE, Act would authorize $12 million out of existing annual funding for five years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program. The funds would be used to explore the feasibility, potential benefits and public policy challenges associated with using in-vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving.

In 2009, drunk driving killed 10,839 people nationwide - including 114 in New Mexico and 303 in Tennessee. An estimated 9,000 road traffic deaths could be prevented every year if alcohol detection technologies were more widely used to prevent drunk drivers from operating their vehicles.

"While we've made good progress over the last decade in reducing drunk driving in New Mexico, it continues to be a primary cause of fatal crashes in my home state, and across the country," Udall said. "This legislation will help keep Americans safe on the road by spurring the development of new technologies to prevent - and hopefully eliminate - drunk driving crashes in the future."

"More than 10,000 people are killed each year in drunk driving accidents. By Americans choosing to utilize these types of safety measures, my hope is that we can ultimately help prevent those accidents and save lives," Corker said.

NHTSA and DADSS would use the funding to explore a variety of emerging technologies designed to reduce drunk driving crashes. These include devices that determine a driver's blood alcohol level by touching the steering wheel or engine start button, as well as sensors that passively monitor a driver's breath. If the sensors indicate that the driver's blood alcohol level is over 0.08, the legal limit, the vehicle would not start.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD); The Century Council, an organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving; the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), a not-for-profit organization funded by distillers to fight drunk driving and underage drinking; and AAA, also support the ROADS SAFE Act.

"Along with Transportation Secretary LaHood and NHTSA Administrator Strickland, I recently visited the DADSS research lab near Boston where we saw firsthand the incredible progress that has been made on the technology that could one day turn cars into the cure for drunk driving. MADD applauds Senators Udall and Corker for their continued leadership on ROADS SAFE. This is an important research program that holds the promise of eliminating drunk driving if the necessary funding is made available," MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney said.

"This legislation would significantly increase Federal funding for the ongoing exploration of advanced technologies to prevent drunk driving led by NHTSA and the auto industry. If our nation can develop technology to prevent people from driving drunk while preserving the rights of drivers below the legal .08 percent BAC limit, it has the capacity to save thousands of lives each year," The Century Council Chairman, Susan Molinari said.

"DISCUS commends Senators Udall and Corker for introducing the ROADS SAFE Act of 2011 and is pleased to offer our support for this important legislation. This bill takes a positive step in the fight against drunk driving by providing funding needed for research to develop in-car alcohol detection technology that would be a voluntary option for automobile purchasers and set at the .08 BAC limit. We also support the objectives that this technology be highly accurate, moderately prices and unobtrusive to the sober driver," Peter H. Cressy, President/CEO, DISCUS said.

"AAA applauds Senators Udall and Corker for their steadfast leadership on this important safety topic and we are pleased to support their legislation. The research supported by this bill will help determine the feasibility of technology that can prevent someone from driving while intoxicated - a better safety option than arresting and convicting those individuals after the fact," Kathleen Marvaso, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA, said.

As New Mexico Attorney General from 1990-1998, Udall fought to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road and has continued to champion the cause in the Senate. Earlier this year, Udall joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in introducing legislation that would make states require the use of ignition interlock technology for all convicted drunk driving offenders. This legislation would make New Mexico's current DWI ignition interlock law the national standard.