WASHINGTON – After privacy concerns were raised, three Republican senators, including Texan John Cornyn, introduced legislation to repeal a provision that would have mandated the development of advanced drunk-driving prevention technology and required the use theirs on all new passenger cars.
The provision of drunk driving technology was celebrated last fall by advocacy organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Defenders of Highway and Freeway Safety when President Joe Biden signed it into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment Act and Jobs of $1.2 trillion.
But it became a point of contention for some Republicans worried about potential intrusions into privacy from new technology — in cars, gadgets or otherwise — used in millions of American households.
The provision in the infrastructure bill gives federal regulators at least three years to determine what kind of technology should be required as part of the new vehicle standard, and automakers will then have another two years to implement it. that standard in their vehicles.
Natalie Yezbick, Cornyn’s press secretary, said the senior Texas senator is a supporter of many of the measures already in place to prevent drunk driving, such as placing steering wheel breathalyzers and ignition locks on the vehicles of traffic offenders. convicted.
However, “the senator is concerned that the federal government has broad and unchecked authority to place passive technologies in vehicles that could easily violate the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens,” Yezbick said in a statement to Dallas Morning News.
Cornyn, a co-sponsor of Republican-led legislation aimed at repealing the provision, titled the Protecting Privacy in Your Car Act of 2022 and introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., is not alone in his concern its preventive.
After it was passed in November, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union said the provision gives the Transportation Department so much freedom in developing and implementing the technology that we could end up with a “privacy disaster.”
Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the watchdog group the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, and Nina Loshkajian, one of the group’s legal associates, write in an op-ed for Hill that “not only is this type of surveillance mandate invasive, one-sided and ultimately unconstitutional; it won’t work.”
But for people like Fairview resident Steve Mason, who has volunteered with MADD since his son, Chris, died in a drunken driving accident in 2005, privacy concerns are just one obstacle that can and should overcome to introduce prevention technology into cars.
Mason said that when he first saw that Rounds, Cornyn and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., had introduced legislation to repeal the provision, he “did [his] the blood boils.”
Every time he reads about a drunk driving accident, Mason said, he thinks about the families.
“You just can’t understand the impact it has had on our family and all the other families,” he said.
In 2021, 1,100 people were killed and 2,560 were seriously injured in drunk driving crashes on Texas roads, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. On average, one person dies every 7 hours and 57 minutes in Texas due to a DUI alcohol-related traffic accident.
On the other hand, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent nonprofit organization, estimated that in-car systems that limit a driver’s blood alcohol concentration to less than the legal limit could prevent more than 9,000 deaths a year.
Automakers are exploring several different types of technology that can detect and prevent drunk driving, and Hyundai has said it has made progress on a smart cabin controller that can monitor the passenger for signs of drowsy driving.
Congress did not specify what kind of technology the cars must include, only that it must be able to accurately detect drunk driving and that it must be “passive.”
MADD believes the provision in the infrastructure bill has the potential to eventually eliminate drunk driving.
“It’s a complicated rule, but it will be, we believe, the most important safety regulation ever to come out of the U.S. Department of Transportation in terms of potential lives saved,” said Stephanie Manning, chief of the government affairs at MADD.
Manning said MADD has met with Cornyn’s staff to address his concerns and find ways to resolve them.
“Let’s find a way to address these concerns. We don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy, we don’t want data to be used in a way that puts anyone at risk,” Manning said. “We just want to stop accidents from happening.”