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VERIFY: Yes, if passed, the infrastructure bill would eventually mandate alcohol monitoring systems in cars

The Verify team looked into social media claims that the massive 2,700 page bill includes a section mandating alcohol monitoring devices in new cars. This is true.

WASHINGTON — On social media, there are a lot of claims about what's in the massive infrastructure bill. This includes a claim getting a lot of attention about alcohol monitoring systems, like breathalyzers, being mandated in new cars.

The Verify team looked at the language in the bill to get a better understanding of this policy, and spoke with experts for context. 

THE QUESTION

Does the infrastructure bill mandate that new cars include alcohol monitoring systems, as claimed online? 

THE SOURCES

  • Text of the Infrastructure Bill, H.R. 3684
  • Xan Fishman, Director of Energy Policy and Carbon Management at Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Stephanie Manning, Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving

THE ANSWER

Yes. The bill mandates that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must create rules mandating that alcohol monitoring systems be required for all new cars. However, the text in the bill does not support the use of breathalyzers.

WHAT WE KNOW

The claim about alcohol monitoring systems has received a lot of attention, especially from those critical about the expansiveness of the bill. But advocates against drunk driving have celebrated the policy. 

The policy is outlined in section 24220, titled "Advanced Impaired Driving Technology," starting on page 1,066. 

The policy dictates that within three years, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, should do the following (bolded by WUSA9): "issue a final rule prescribing a Federal motor vehicle safety standard... that requires passenger motor vehicles manufactured after the effective date of that standard to be equipped with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.

According to the bill, this technology should do the following: 

  • "Passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired; and prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if an impairment is detected;"
  • "Passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of a driver of a motor vehicle is equal to or greater than the blood alcohol concentration described in section 163(a) of title 23, United States Code; and prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit is detected."
  • Or a combination of the two. 

Xan Fishman from the Bipartisan Policy Center said that the bill gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration up to three years to set the rules for the technology, although this deadline can be extended by three more years if needed.  

"The rule needs to be finalized within three years of enactment," Fishman said. "And then the compliance date will be not earlier than two and not later than three years after that rule is finalized."

By this compliance date, all new cars will need to incorporate this technology, as outlined by the NHTSA standard. 

Advocacy group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), came out in support of the policy in a statement released on Tuesday.  

"When signed into law," the statement read in part, "legislation leading to impaired driving prevention in all vehicles will be the most significant, lifesaving public policy in MADD’s history. It will mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving."

Stephanie Manning the Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that the exact technology is unclear, although it will be "passive," meaning this will not be an "ignition interlock" or "Breathalyzer."

“We're talking about passive technology," she said. "Where the driver just gets in the car and drives, you know, just like today, the driver won't notice anything won't have to take any action.”

So we can verify that the infrastructure bill, if passed, would mandate some form of alcohol monitoring technology. But, it will not be immediate.