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Infrastructure bill would mandate vehicles have alcohol monitoring systems

A man behind the wheel of a vehicle. (WHAM photo)
A man behind the wheel of a vehicle. (WHAM photo)
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HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WHAM) — WHAM-TV's morning anchor Matt Molloy drives a Volvo equipped with sensor technology to help keep him safe.

"It's actually steering for me now," he said as he engaged cruise control. "If it senses I'm not touching the wheel, it will beep."

The beep comes through his dashboard.

Now," he continued, "it's telling me to apply steering again or it's going to disengage.

A bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed in the Senate Tuesday takes things a step further. It is a trillion-dollar plan to fix the country's roads and bridges.

Yet halfway through the plan, on page 1,066, there's a requirement involving the cars we'll be purchasing six years from now. They'll have to contain alcohol monitoring systems.

The full bill, showing page 1,066 regarding alcohol monitoring systems, is embedded below:

The plan calls for "passive" systems to monitor the performance of a driver, for example, by using eye scans. Or, it requires automakers to passively gauge blood alcohols levels, perhaps by measuring them in the air of the vehicle.

It stops short of mandating breathalyzers or ignition devices but leaves the door open.

Lindsay Tomidy is with the Monroe County Stop DWI Program and sees people who have been convicted of DWI, perhaps involving a crash or injury, who are required to use those devices.

The difference being that this is getting ahead of the problem before it happens," she said. "We're just going to see the injuries and fatalities decrease.

The proposed requirement is a surprise to many drivers.

If it's added value and they've done research, I would be supportive of it," said Jennifer Harris, a nurse from Pittsford, N.Y. "Anything we could do to protect individuals from harm.

"This is the first I've heard of it being added to the bill. With the infrastructure bill, it seems like it should be based on infrastructure," said Danny Daniele.

The required technology would also measure impairment from prescription drugs or drowsiness.

Previous auto safety measures mandated by the U.S. government have focused on airbags and crash impact, protecting users in the event they are in an auto accident.

This would require carmakers to have technology that prevents or limits operation once potential impairment is detected. Systems currently under development by Volvo and others would issue a warning to drivers, then slow the speed of the vehicle and pull it over.

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It would give the vehicle and its sensors, not the driver, the final say.

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