VIDEO: Udall, Scott Unveil Major Bipartisan Legislation to Help Prevent Drunk Driving and Save Thousands of Lives

Video from the press conference is available here

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), joined by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), unveiled bipartisan legislation to help prevent drunk driving and save thousands of lives. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019 (RIDE Act) will promote the research and development of advanced alcohol detection technology and will require the implementation of such technology in new motor vehicles.

“The fact is that deaths from drunk driving are completely preventable – so we have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent such senseless tragedies. I’ve been in this fight for a long time, and we’ve made real progress. But we are still losing thousands of lives each year to drunk driving crashes. Every drunk driving death is one too many – and one family too many forced to confront unimaginable pain. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to help end drunk driving for good by putting alcohol detection technology in all new motor vehicles,” said Udall. “We owe it to those we’ve lost—to honor them with action.”

“It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many to the irresponsible actions of drunk drivers. Now is the time to act so we never have to experience another tragedy. I’m proud to join Senator Udall to introduce the RIDE Act, which promotes the development of critical alcohol detection technology that could save 7,000 lives every year. One life lost is too many, and this technology will go a long way in protecting our families and communities,” said Scott.

“Drunk driving has brought pain to my community in Dearborn and the country,” said Dingell. “Change needs to come faster and we need to do everything we can to ensure what happened to the Abbas family never happens again. The bills introduced in the House and Senate represent a way to do that and I’m committed to continuing to work with advocacy groups, industry, federal regulators, and those who have lost loved ones, including relatives of the Abbas family who are with us here today, so we can stop drunk driving and ensure the tragedy of the Abbas family never happens again.”

In 2017, 10,847 people were killed on American roads as a result of drunk driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that means a drunk driver killed someone every 48 minutes.  Yet a drunk driver has only a two percent chance of being caught.  Despite robust educational and enforcement initiatives, drunk driving still accounts for one-third of all traffic fatalities.  According to MADD, New Mexico faced 118 drunk driving deaths in 2018, amounting to 29 percent of overall traffic fatalities. In Florida, there were 841 drunk driving deaths in 2017, representing 26 percent of traffic fatalities as the result of drunk driving.

The RIDE Act of 2019 will fund the technology transfer of federally funded research and development of advanced alcohol detection technology that detects whether a driver is impaired over the legal limit and, if so, prevents that driver from starting the car.  The act sets up a pilot program for fleet deployment of vehicles equipped with this technology with the federal General Services Administration, state and local partners, and private fleet owners.  Finally, the act requires a rulemaking to mandate installment of this technology in every new vehicle.  If all vehicles were equipped with this advanced alcohol detection technology, an estimated 7,000 lives could be saved every year.

During the press conference, Udall and Scott were joined by MADD National President Helen Witty, Joan Claybrook, Former NHTSA Administrator, and the Abbas family who have lost family members in drunk driving crashes. The bill is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the National Safety Council.

“This technology is a game changer in the fight to stop the horrible tragedies caused by drunk driving — the leading killer on our nation’s roads. Seven months ago at a House hearing I challenged the auto industry to move aggressively to put advanced drunk driving prevention technology in their vehicles. Now I’m back to reissue the challenge with our longtime MADD champion, Senator Udall. We are so grateful to Senator Udall and Senator Scott for leading this charge in the Senate, and for Representative Dingell’s similar proposal in the House. MADD looks forward to working together to eliminate this public safety crisis that kills 30 people every day in America,” said Helen Witty, Mothers Against Drunk Driving National President.

“Impaired driving crashes cause a major emotional and financial toll, including the premature deaths of children, parents, friends, and breadwinners within families.  The RIDE Act addresses the urgent need to end these preventable tragedies by putting us on the fast track toward reliable passive alcohol detection technology in every new car.  The RIDE Act will inspire innovation and will create a market for suppliers and auto makers, ultimately getting the technology across the finish line.  I commend Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) for their bipartisan leadership on this critical public health and safety issue,” said Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus of Public Citizen, Board Member of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Udall, has championed efforts to prevent drunk-driving fatalities since he served as New Mexico’s Attorney General from 1990-1998. In 2011, Udall introduced the Ride Safe Act to fund the development of new technologies to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while drunk. The measure was included in the 2012 surface transportation bill, which authorized up to $12 million per year in funding for five years.

Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced similar legislation, the HALT Drunk Driving Act, in the House of Representatives.

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can be found HERE.