If US policy makers were not busy making airwaves for slinging mud at one another, there are stories like the creation of a “first-of-its-kind” legislative policy that is being brought into law that should be on every news headline. But it is not because negativity gets people coverage. One of those positive policy changes comes in the form of the HALT and RIDE Act, legislation that looks toward the future and promises to do something about impaired driving. The way I discovered the HALT and RIDE Act was thanks to MADD Canada’s Spring 2023 newsletter, and it might be one of the most interesting things I have read about in 2023. Best of all, it is getting traction here in Canada and Canadian legislators are being encouraged to replicate the HALT and RIDE Act and bring forth a Canadian version of the bill.
The HALT and RIDE Act
The HALT and RIDE Act are future-looking legislative bills that create a new safety standard for auto manufacturers, similar to the introduction of the car airbag, but with a focus on leveraging smart technology for impaired driving. The basis of the bill focuses on a variety of impaired driving prevention technologies including driver monitoring which can detect signs of distracted, impaired, or fatigued driving. If these future smart cars become concerned about the way in which their driver is operating them, they could trigger safety mechanisms that reduce speed levels and even require that their driver pull over to the side of the road.
“I still see the headlights in my nightmares.”
In the summer of 1992 and less than a mile away from home, the 20-year-old future senator, Ben Ray Lujan, recalls seeing two headlights coming right at him and leaving him no time to react. That drunk driver forever changed the life trajectory of the senator, and it makes the fight to end impaired driving something that is personal for him. At a MADD virtual news conference in 2021, Senator Lujan spoke to the advancements that would be made thanks to the HALT and RIDE Act and shared his story of being a survivor of an impaired crash. One of the things that is mentioned during the news conference is how Senator Lujan still relives that crash in his nightmares, and it is an ordeal that never leaves many of the people who are impacted by impaired driving.
Technology meets safety. Safety meets policy.
According to MADD, there are over one hundred current technologies that exist and even more that are being worked on. MADD also powerfully illustrates the importance behind the adoption of the new safety standard by contrasting how a physician would never withhold a medicine to treat a disease and how we should not hold back cars from being equipped with life-saving technologies.
Some of the technology that is already on newer vehicles would only require minor repurposing to allow for better safety prevention measures. The technology itself is mandated to be passive and not noticeable by drivers unless the vehicle detects unsafe driving. Passive technology includes repurposing lane assist technology, made possible by an exterior sensor that feeds information to the “car brain” and telling the driver if someone is in their blind spot or to get back in your lane center, but it could be expanded to sense if a car is driving erratically and it has the potential to inform the car that it is being operated unsafely. The only costs associated with repurposing existing hardware has to do with software, they are not significant, and some cars already have the capacity to implement these extra features but have not chosen to activate them yet.
Those that are against the HALT and RIDE Act argue that the technology that is required for this endeavor is non-existent, even though that could not be farther from the truth, and these types of claims must be labelled for what they are, “pro-impaired driving arguments” and positions we must never accept. These pro-impaired driving ‘activists’ also argue, despite being entirely wrong, that the mandates are unfair to car manufacturers because they will have to “devote a lot of time and money to developing these drunk driving detection features, and that it might come at the expense of the development of more effective, but unmandated, safety features.”, and that requiring cars to have cameras inside a car that monitor a driver and their performance has privacy implications. But there is no sensible argument to be made opposing these road safety measures that have the long-term potential to eliminate impaired and dangerous driving altogether, and those trying to argue against them lack the understanding of the power of existing technologies.
What matters most is that there appears to be quite a bit of traction here in Canada for these road safety measures and that matters because approximately 50% of all fatal traffic accidents and some 30% of traffic injuries are the result of impaired driving. If Canada was to introduce its own version of the HALT and RIDE Act, it would help reduce the 2500 lives that are lost every year as a result of impaired driving.
So, if you are like me and believe that we should do whatever we can to reduce the unnecessary loss of life, then please visit MADD Canada and sign the online call to bring the safety prevention measures to Canada.