NTSB Advises Vehicle Passive-Integrated Alcohol Detection

Driving under the influence of alcohol remains a leading cause of injury-involved highway crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, roughly one in three traffic fatalities resulted from crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers. Recent data show that impaired driving crashes are increasing.Because people who are impaired by alcohol often have compromised judgment and indulge in increased risk-taking, interventions are ​​needed that do not require decision-making by impaired drivers. Vehicle-integrated passive alcohol detection technologies that prevent or limit impaired drivers from operating their vehicles have significant lifesaving potential; however, development of the technologies has been slow, and additional action is needed to accelerate progress in implementing these technologies.

​​As a result of an investigation, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that NHTSA require that all new vehicles be equipped with passive vehicle-integrated alcohol impairment detection systems, advanced driver monitoring systems, or a combination thereof; the systems must be capable of preventing or limiting vehicle operation if driver impairment by alcohol is detected.

To ensure that the automotive industry is engaged in this important safety effort, NTSB also recommended that the Alliance for Automotive Innovation inform its members (who manufacture close to 98 percent of the new cars and light trucks sold in the United States) about this crash and encourage them to accelerate development and prioritize deployment of advanced impaired driving prevention technology and to seek innovative ways to adapt existing technologies, such as driver monitoring systems, to combat alcohol-impaired driving. NTSB also reiterated a recommendation to NHTSA to incentivize passenger vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt ISA systems by, for example, including ISA in the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

​To address issues identified with drug toxicology testing in California, NTSB recommended that the state enact legislation that requires forensic toxicology laboratories to follow the standards recommended by the National Safety Council’s Alcohol, Drugs, and Impairment Division and to update testing protocols if additional federal guidance is provided. In conjunction with the recommendation to California, NTSB also reiterated a recommendation to NHTSA to develop and disseminate to state officials a common standard of practice for drug toxicology testing.