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Connecticut News

Blumenthal demands new technology in cars to prevent drunk driving deaths

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
Lauren Victoria Burke
/
AP
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)

Erin and Larry Hermann’s 23 year-old son was killed by a driver under the influence in East Hampton, Connecticut. Both parents believe Kyle Hermann would still be alive if new vehicle technology that stops drunk drivers behind the wheel was available in the 2018 crash.

“Passive vehicle technology standards have the potential to eliminate the number one killer on American roads,” Erin Hermann said. “I wish that my son could reap the benefits but we’re so grateful that others would eventually.”

The $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month requires all new cars to have the technology installed by 2026. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said on Friday, alongside families of victims of drunk driving in his state, that within three years, federal agencies will have to “develop standards for technology that can be implemented promptly by car manufacturers.”

“By 2026, cars rolling off the assembly line should have technology that will prevent drunk driving,” Blumenthal said.

New cars would have sensors placed in the seats and panels that can sense if there’s alcohol coming from the driver. Other sensors could tell if the driver's eyes aren’t on the road, if they start closing their eyes, if their head starts nodding, or if the car starts swerving. This technology would also work with drivers falling asleep behind the wheel. It will either slow the car down or immobilize it.

“It’s not some promise in the future. It’s not hope,” he said. “It’s now a law that cars will have to include this preventive technology that will stop drunk driving.”

About 10,000 deaths every year in the United States happen as a result of drunk driving. Blumenthal estimated this technology will save about 9,400 lives.

“On average, 28 people will be killed as a result of someone making the wrong decisions and it’s 100% preventable,” said Bob Garguilo, executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving of New England. “This technology will obviously do something that we as humans could not do, which was control ourselves and make the right decision.”

Garguilo said the holidays are a time to celebrate and live life to the fullest but it’s important that no one gets behind the wheel of a car. He encourages using Uber, Lyft or public transportation and to have a plan before you leave your house.

“The most important thing you can do this holiday season is to have a plan,” Garguilo said. "If you’re going to an office party or you're going to a family occasion, just have a plan, who’s the designated driver.”

“The holiday season is coming up and we don’t get to hide from that,” Larry Hermann said. “That’s something that’s there every single day for us. All we’re asking is for people to take the time to think. Enjoy your families and tell your loved ones you love them every single day because we take everything for granted.”

Blumenthal said he hopes putting this technology into cars will be a ripple effect. He wants trains and other forms of public transportation to have this technology installed soon after it’s available to cars.