Will Self-Driving Cars Increase Or Decrease Drunk Driving?

Posted: Feb 11 2020, 1:47pm CST | by , in Cars & Vehicles

Will Self-Driving Cars Increase or Decrease Drunk Driving?
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Driveerless cars are the future... but will it lead to more distracted driving?

While the technology isn't here yet, driverless cars are on the way. Today, you can drive a Tesla or an Audi with Level 3 autonomy that allows you to take your hands off the wheel occasionally as the vehicle takes over, navigating around other drivers and traffic.

We won't have fully autonomous — level 5 — cars for some time yet. Once we do, however, will these vehicles increase or decrease drunk driving?

Some Sobering Statistics

Drunk driving takes countless lives in the United States every year. In 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-related driving crashes, an average of one fatality every 50 minutes.

You might be astonished to learn there are an estimated 111 million instances of drunk driving every single year. Not all of them lead to accidents, but every single one has the potential to end in tragedy.

We should do everything possible to prevent drunk driving. Yet many of the practices in effect right now don't work.

What Works, What Doesn't?

Right now, 13 states conduct sobriety checkpoints weekly, though the practice is legal in 38 states. Unfortunately, the problem with these checkpoints is that they don't work. In one year, West Virginia stopped more than 130,000 drivers. How many drunk drivers did they arrest? A mere 189, and only a fraction of these ended in conviction.

Many practices can prevent drunk driving, such as zero-tolerance laws, ignition interlocks, interventions and media campaigns. Sobriety checkpoints are also useful, though they aren't as effective as they should be.

Some industry experts have started to explore the idea of self-driving cars as a solution to drunk driving. Will these autonomous vehicles be the solution we're looking for?

Will Autonomous Vehicles Help?

Will self-driving cars reduce the number of drunk driving accidents, or will they make the problem worse. The answer is likely both.

Right now, with level two and three autonomy, self-driving cars won't reduce the number of drunk driving crashes. In fact, they might increase accident rates. Level two and three autonomy requires regular driver interaction, but it may be enough to convince people they can drive home despite being intoxicated.

Once we have full autonomy, level four and five, the technology will reduce drunk driving accidents. Why? Because people will be able to go out for a night on the town and make their way home safely. The most significant risk will be throwing up in your car on the way home.

Level five autonomy doesn't require any human interaction — these vehicles might not even have steering wheels — which makes them an ideal solution to reduce drunk driving accidents.

The Future of Driverless Cars

While driverless cars aren't a perfect solution — especially since level five self-driving vehicles won't be available for years — it's a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to keep yourself and others safe is not drink and drive. Go out and have a good time, but use a designated driver or call a taxi or Uber. A night out on the town isn't worth your life or the life of anyone else.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.




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