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“End Drunk Driving Act” And Others Introduced In Congress

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, photo by U.S. House Photography

As reported by, on May 30, 2019, Long Island, NY Congresswoman Kathleen Rice introduced a package of three bills that would combat impaired and distracted driving.  The End Drunk Driving Act will require that within 10 years, all new cars sold in the U.S. come equipped with advanced DWI-prevention technology.  According to the Garden City Democrat, “… nearly 15,000 were killed in 2018 because of an impaired or distracted driver – these are deadly and tragic epidemics that have claimed too many lives and destroyed too many families. It’s past time that we take action at the federal level to end this crisis.”

The DWI-prevention technology includes that which detects a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and prevents the car from moving if the driver’s BAC is at or above the legal limit. The technology is currently being developed through the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program, Rice said, a research partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), which represents 17 leading automobile manufacturers.

More specifically, the article explains that both touch-based technology and breath-based technology are being explored.  The touch-based technology responds to the touch of a driver’s fingertip and uses infrared light to measure the driver’s BAC. Unlike a breathalyzer, the DADSS breath-based technology does not require a driver to breathe into a tube – a driver simply enters the vehicle and breathes normally, and sensors detect the driver’s BAC using infrared light. Rice’s legislation will require the technology to be installed in all new cars sold in the U.S. within 10 years of the bill’s enactment.

Congresswoman Rice also introduced “The Prevent Impaired Driving Child Endangerment Act,” which would set national standards for criminal penalties against individuals who drive while intoxicated or impaired with a child in the vehicle.  A third proposal,

The third bill, “The Distracted Driving Education Act of 2019,” would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to award $5 million in competitive grant funding to non-profit organizations working to educate the public and prevent distracted driving in communities across the country.

Congresswoman Rice’s “End Drunk Driving Act” proposal requires states to enact the following:

  • A law that provides that the individual can be charged with a felony and face to up to four years in prison;
  • A law that requires the individual, if convicted, to install and maintain an ignition interlock system on any car they own or operate;
  • A law that suspends the individual’s driver’s license during the course of prosecution, unless the individual installs and maintains an ignition interlock system;
  • A law that requires the individual, if convicted, to undergo an alcohol abuse, substance abuse or mental health assessment and, if the assessment indicates the need for treatment, authorizes the appropriate court or monitoring agency to require the individual to undergo treatment as part of their sentence or as a condition for reissuance of their license;
  • A law that requires authorities to file a report with the appropriate state register of child abuse if the individual is the parent, guardian or custodian of the child passenger, or is in any way legally responsible for the child.

The “new” touch technology has been discussed in legal circles for at least 20 years.  While the courts will have to decide if our constitutional Due Process rights prohibit such technology, it would take a long time before the “older” vehicles are off the roadways.  Further, some of the proposed state requirements (such as requiring ignition interlock systems for convicted DUI offenders) have been implemented in a number of states (such as Tennessee) for many years.  Nonetheless, if the technology is accurate and saves lives without violating our individual rights, this legislation could be a good start.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 8th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.  After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website.

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Steve Oberman

Steve Oberman

Since graduating from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1980, Mr. Oberman has become established as a national authority on the intricacies of DUI defense law. Steve is a former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, co-author of a national treatise ("Drunk Driving Defense" published by Aspen/Wolters-Kluwer), and author of "DUI: The Crime and Consequences in Tennessee" (published by Thomson-Reuters/West). He has taught thousands of lawyers, judges, and members of the general public about the intricacies of this crime. Steve was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at the University of Latvia School of Law in 2019; in 2023 taught for a semester as a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary; and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2024. Steve has also presented at a number of judicial conferences in the United States and Canada as well as for law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Czech Republic Police Academy. As a Tennessee DUI attorney, Mr. Oberman has successfully defended over two thousand clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In 2006, Mr. Oberman became the first DUI lawyer in Tennessee to be recognized by the National College for DUI Defense as a Board Certified Specialist in the area of DUI Defense law.

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