‘It’s going to save lives’: Anti-drunk driving technology could be in new cars by 2026

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INDIANAPOLIS — It was 2002 when Pam Kelshaw and her family were driving home from a shopping trip in Noblesville. A car, driven by a drunk driver, ran a stop sign and hit them.

Her 17-year-old daughter Silina was killed instantly.

“Every day is a constant reminder that they’re missing some thing in their family and in their heart,” Kelshaw said. “The victims never heal there’s no way to heal.”

Kelshaw now works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a victim services specialist.

“It is 100% avoidable and they lose someone for the rest of their life,” Kelshaw said.

Her dedication to preventing drunk driving is why she says she’s 100% behind a new mandate that was passed as part of the President Biden’s massive infrastructure bill.

Under the provision, car manufacturers would have to roll out anti-drunk driving technology in new cars as early as 2026. The bill doesn’t mandate what type of technology, but it has to be there.

“If you are not out there drinking and driving you have nothing to worry about,” Kelshaw said. “It’s the people who do drink and drive that need this in their vehicle.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,000 people are killed due to alcohol-related crashes every year. It’s something that is becoming more prevalent in Indiana.

“In 2020 there were 898 traffic fatalities in the state of Indiana. Of those, 151 or 17% were related to alcohol consumption,” Sgt. John Perrine with the Indiana State Police said.  

That’s compared to roughly 13% in 2019. Sgt. Perrine says the alcohol-related crashes are some of the hardest to respond to.

“These crashes have a ripple effect,” Perrine said. “It doesn’t only affect the person that made the decision to drink and drive it affects that person’s family, the victim’s family, the first responders, the communities.“

In some cases, people on probation for drunk driving have to pass a breathalyzer test to start their car. However, that’s not practical for every car in the country.

While the technology may not be there yet, Kelshaw says she hopes it’ll prevent other families from going through a similar experience.

“It’s obviously going to save hundreds of thousands of lives, injuries and heartache for people,” Kelshaw said. “we are not supposed to bury our children, you know, our children bury us.”

Outside of preventing drunk driving, the bill also mandates rear-seat reminders be installed in new cars to prevent child hot car deaths. The bill still needs President Biden’s signature and that is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

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