How will automated vehicles affect drunk driving?

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Every day, too many people die in an alcohol-related car crash in the United States. Although there are alternatives to driving while drunk, people do it anyway. Cost could play a part in this. Not everyone can afford an Uber to get home.

Drunk driving puts your life and others at risk of injury, or death. As self-driving cars become the talk of new technology, could they be what we need to eradicate drunk driving once and for all?

What do people have to say?

Australia, for example, has recognized the need to rethink laws when humans are no longer behind the wheel. Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) took a major step toward embracing self-driving technology, saying that laws against driving under the influence should no longer apply.

This is all part of an on-going debate over the future of regulation surrounding autonomous vehicles. The NTC believes that enabling people to use an automated to drive them home despite their consumption of alcohol has the potential to improve road safety outcomes. Here in the United States, a large part of highway safety’s discussion addresses open container laws.

Changing legislation surrounding drunk driving involves more than just the presence of a self-driving car. The most dangerous scenario may be for individuals who do not have full automated cars, or have been drinking and the car wants them to take over. Providing exemptions for drunk driving laws becomes fuzzy, as an occupant could choose to take over driving the vehicle. Drinking and driving offenses may apply is this case.

It is hard to say how self-driving cars will affect drunk driving, as there are grey areas that remain. Long term, as the individual in the driver’s seat, you may be a “passenger” in an automated vehicle. Just like sitting in the passenger seat, you probably won’t be able to drink. Whether the person driving the car will be considered a driver or passenger depends on the type of automated vehicle we end up with.

For now, researchers are saying that it’s a very bad idea to drink and automated-drive your car. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining if drunk driving will cut down with automated vehicles. As technology advances, this discussion will continue.

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