Sen. Scott taking the lead to eliminate drunk driving through technology
BY HELEN WITTY
JULY 21, 2020
Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has emerged as a true leader in the important fight to eliminate drunk driving, the leading cause of highway deaths in the United States. There are 10,500 preventable fatalities annually.
Working with Sen. Tom Udall, of New Mexico, Scott has proposed bipartisan legislation to take advanced drunk-driving prevention technology out of the laboratory and make it standard equipment in all new vehicles, like many other important safety systems.
I was honored to be with several other victims of drunk driving at the announcement of the Scott-Udall bill in October. MADD is 100 percent in support of this transformative proposal.
The legislation, known as the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act, would require that the nation’s vehicle-safety regulatory agency issue a technology-neutral requirement that advanced drunk-driving detection be standard in vehicles starting four years after the legislation becomes law. That could mean this new technology would be required as early as 2024.
The result, with full implementation in the vehicle fleet, is an estimated 7,000 fewer deaths each year. We are not aware of any other single safety technology that holds such promise.
Fortunately, this safety system requirement should not be out of reach for auto companies and their suppliers, who are doing significant work already on advanced safety technologies, including drunk-driving prevention.
Volvo, for example, announced plans early last year to install cameras and sensors to monitor drivers for alcohol impairment. And 13 years ago, Nissan unveiled a concept car with several features intended to help reduce drunk driving, including alcohol odor sensors and driver-behavior monitoring.
Toyota was working on a drunk-driving detection system in the same time frame.
At MADD, we are thrilled that Scott has taken this leadership role in working to establish a national policy for all vehicles to have such life-saving systems. His position on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which writes traffic-safety laws, is helpful as well.
As Scott said in October, “It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many to the irresponsible actions of drunk drivers. Now is the time to act so that we never have to experience another tragedy.”
I cannot put into words how much I wish an in-vehicle drunk-driving prevention system was available in 2000 when my 16-year-old daughter Helen Marie was killed by a drunk and drug-impaired driver.
At MADD, our goal is “No More Victims” of drunk driving. I am proud that my home state senator is showing his commitment to saving lives and preventing injuries by sponsoring a major step to put the country on a clear path to that goal.
Helen Witty, a resident of Miami, is the national president of MADD.