These days, there’s not a lot a car can’t do. They can parallel park for you, help you stay in your lane, apply the brakes and even drive for you. Now, self-driving cars made by Google, Tesla, Mercedes and Audi are expected to increase fuel efficiency and decrease the number of car accidents. In theory, the people who stand to benefit the most from self-driving cars are teenage drivers, elderly drivers, tired workers and people who plan on drinking.
Picture it; after having a few cocktails at a bar, it would be so easy to get into your self-driving car, press the “home” button and relax as the car transports you safely. You’re home free, right? Wrong.
Drinking and Operating a Self-Driving Car is Still Drunk Driving
According to a member of the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, the actions that require a person to start the car, enter destination instructions and put the car into self-driving mode constitutes driving. Thus, if you’re intoxicated, this is drunk driving.
Drivers in autonomous vehicles must be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the car and must be available to take over manual control in case of an emergency. That said, a drunk driver would be incapable of safely taking back control of a self-driving car if they needed to, especially at high speeds.
Some might think self-driving cars would tempt people to drink and get behind the wheel. However, a new bill would require self-driving cars sold in New Jersey to have an ignition interlock device installed in order to prevent drivers from operating self-driving cars and evading state statutes that prohibit drunk driving.
In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed a law that requires repeat DUI offenders and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .15 or higher to install an ignition interlock device. By expanding that law to self-driving cars, the legislature is making it clear that getting behind the wheel of any car, even a self-driving car, while drunk is inexcusable.