Driver intoxication is one of the leading causes of death and serious injuries in Mississippi and across America. Drivers who are intoxicated aren’t focusing on other drivers. They can’t respond to emergencies. They often cause accidents because they speed, cross into opposing lanes of driving, swerve, and violate the state’s traffic laws. Even with increased penalties including prison sentences and suspension of driving privileges, many drivers continue to drive while they are drunk.
But that may be changing soon. The surface transportation bill (which was temporarily extended but will now be permanent as part of the infrastructure bill) allots funding to combat drunk driving. The law requires that car manufacturers install new technology that prevents a car from operating if the driver is intoxicated. The driver safety technology law requires that manufacturers install the technology within three years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will need to verify the technology works.
Car and Driver compiled NHTSA data, which shows that nearly 10,000 people are killed yearly due to drunk drivers. The new law does not detail what type of “anti-impaired driving technology” must be used – just that the NHTSA will verify the technology works.
Car and Driver suggests that the technology may be based on technology Nissan considered in 2007. Nissan’s “concept, built from a production Fuga sedan, used a hi-sensitivity sensor in the transmission shift knob that could detect alcohol in the driver’s perspiration.” Other technology might sense if the air in the car had alcohol. The “car itself could monitor the driver’s face for signs of impairment.” Technology could also detect errant driving motions, common for drunk drivers, such as swerving in and out of lanes.
The car would react differently, due to safety issues, depending on whether the car is stopped or in motion. In addition to the loud sounds and flashing lights, a car might tighten the seat belts of the drivers and passengers to ready the occupants for a crash. There are likely many additional scientific solutions since the issue was addressed by Nissan back in 2007.
The anti-drunk-driving technology legislation is being pushed, in part, due to the deaths of several members of a family from Michigan who were killed while traveling in Kentucky. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports the new legislation. The organization says the legislation “will mark the beginning of the end of drunk driving.”
Is there any existing technology to prevent drunk driving?
Many states do currently require that drivers who have a DUI conviction use ignition interlock (IID) devices. These IID devices test the breath of a driver before he/she starts the car and at random times while the car is in operation. If the breathalyzer test shows that that the driver’s blood alcohol content level is too high, the car won’t stop. If the test shows the BAC while the driver is operating his/her car, the horns will blare and the lights will flash forcing the driver off the road. The new law would use different technology. It would be used regardless of whether the driver has a DUI conviction.
How deadly is drunk driving in Mississippi?
Mississippi has long struggled with drunk driving. According to Responsibility.org, in 2018:
- 163 people died in a drunk-driving accident.
- Nearly 15% of all fatal traffic accidents were due to a drunk driver.
- 22% of the people under the age of 21 who died in a Mississippi that year were involved in a drunk-driving accident.
- In more than 67% of drunk-driving fatality accidents, the driver’s blood alcohol content was .15 or higher.
- About 67% of the drivers with a BAC of .15 or more were repeat offenders. 1/3rd of the drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher were repeat offenders.
Survivors of drunk-driving accidents in Mississippi are likely to suffer catastrophic injuries including brain injuries, spinal cord damage, paralysis, internal bleeding, and broken bones.
Who is responsible for a drunk-driving accident?
The primary person for any drunk-driving accident is the driver. Under the law, “The Mississippi Legislature finds and declares that the consumption of intoxicating beverages, rather than the sale or serving or furnishing of such beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury, including death and property damage, inflicted by an intoxicated person upon himself or upon another person.”
This means that the drunk or impaired driver is the one who is liable – not the bar which sold him or her the drinks, nor the party host who served the driver. An exception may be made if the seller or provider falsely claims that the drinks did not contain alcohol or forces another person to drink, or for bars which sell to visibly intoxicated people, but by and large, it is the responsibility of the driver to get a ride home.
At Merkel & Cocke, P.A. our Mississippi car accident lawyers work aggressively to hold everyone who caused your injuries or the death of a loved one liable. We demand compensation for your pain and suffering, lost income, medical expenses, scarring and disfigurement, and property damages. We seek wrongful death damages if a parent, child, or other relative including a fetus was killed by a drunk driver. While we settle many cases, we’re ready to try your case before a jury if necessary.
To discuss your rights, call us at 662-627-9641 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. Consultations are free. We represent accident victims on a contingency fee basis. We maintain offices in Greenville, Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.