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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 mandated that within three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must create in-vehicle technology to hinder people who are under the influence from driving. But third parties, including law enforcement, will not have access to the in-vehicle systems or be able to see drivers’ results.
The administration partnered with the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety to create the technology that is expected to monitor drivers’ alcohol levels using sensors and infrared lights in vehicles. If the system detects a blood alcohol level above 0.08%, the vehicle will not move.
Will new technology allow vehicles to signal law enforcement when you get behind the wheel after drinking?
That’s what a Nov. 28 Instagram post claimed. The post shared a video from Toilet Time TV, a social media show and podcast, in which two hosts discussed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a 2021 law enacted by President Joe Biden. One of the hosts said the bill allows for "kill switches in all new cars."
The other host replied, "What you’re saying is, if I’m impaired, my car will just turn off or won’t even start, and it’s just gonna sit there until the police show up."
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The infrastructure bill authorized the creation of technology to hinder people from driving under the influence. But third parties, including law enforcement officials, will not have access to the in-vehicle systems or be able to see drivers’ results, a spokesperson for the program tasked with creating the technology said.
Section 24220 of the infrastructure law mandated that within three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must create new technology to regulate drunk and impaired driving. PolitiFact found no mention in the bill of a "kill switch."
The administration partnered with the nonprofit organization Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety to create the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program to measure people’s blood alcohol levels via breath and touch. The driver’s breath will be measured by a sensor in the door or on the steering wheel. The touch system will be on the car’s ignition button or gearshift, and will monitor blood alcohol content from the person’s skin using an infrared light, said Jake McCook, a spokesperson for the program.
The technology will passively monitor the driver, which means it "would detect alcohol as the driver operates the vehicle normally," McCook said.
"There would be no large piece of equipment to blow into (like a traditional breathalyzer) or piece of hardware that could be tampered with," McCook said. "The goal is for the systems to be completely seamless without affecting normal driving behavior."
If the driver’s blood alcohol level is above the legal level of 0.08%, the car will turn on but won’t move.
"This would allow the driver to remain warm (or cool) and safe in the vehicle, make a call for help or charge a phone. The system would then reset and be ready for another test after each reading and only move when the driver’s BAC is below the legal limit," he said.
Groups that favor the system, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told The Associated Press that they would not support giving any law officials or commercial entities the ability to access data from the in-vehicle system.
Jeffrey Michael, a researcher of mobility services at Johns Hopkins University, is among the experts working on the project. He said there is no precise definition of a kill switch, but the claim seems to refer to a device that would allow "someone outside the vehicle to shut off a running car against the driver’s wishes."
He said the fear is unfounded.
"The technology mandated by Congress would have no outside control. The technology would be inside the car. It would detect a seriously impaired driver and prevent that person from operating the vehicle," Michael said.
Michael noted that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that the technology required under the infrastructure bill could save 9,000 lives per year when implemented.
An Instagram post says all newly built vehicles will have kill switches that will stop vehicle operation and alert law enforcement when drivers are impaired.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 mandated that within three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must create technology to hinder people who are under the influence from driving a vehicle. The technology, which will be required as standard equipment in all vehicles, is expected to monitor drivers’ alcohol levels using sensors and infrared lights in vehicles, and if the system detects a blood alcohol level above 0.08, the vehicle will not move.
But third parties, including law enforcement, will not have access to the in-vehicle systems or be able to see drivers’ results.
The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Instagram post, Nov. 28, 2022
Snopes, Does Infrastructure Bill Require Surveillance System in New Vehicles to Track Drivers? Jan. 19, 2022
Twitter post, Nov. 28, 2022
Congress, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sec. 24220. Signed into law Nov. 15, 2021
Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, Nov. 30, 2022
The Associated Press, Posts distort infrastructure law’s rule on impaired driving technology, March 3, 2022
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Potential lives saved by in-vehicle alcohol detection systems, January 2021
Email interview with Jake McCook, spokesperson for the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, Dec. 1, 2022
Email interview with Jeffrey Michael, researcher of mobility services at Johns Hopkins University, Dec. 1, 2022
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