Will Self-Driving Cars Change Drunk Driving Laws? | 718-332-7766

How Will Drunk Driving Laws Change to Accommodate Self-Driving Cars?

Posted on: April 26, 2021

Automated vehicles are no longer a thing of the future.  Right now, there are experimental prototypes that are nearly fully automated as well as other less automated vehicles being tested and used on our roads.  The term automated driving systems (ADS) is generic and applies to many different types and levels of automation.  This is when the vehicle makes decisions and controls operations independent from the driver. 

Different levels of automation will involve differing levels of liability to drivers involved in a car accident.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has defined a standardized description of levels of automation: 

  • Level 0. The driver is in control of all driving functions at all times, and there is no automation.
  • Level 1. The driver is in control of all driving functions unless one or more specific control functions automatically assist the driver.
  • Level 2. The driver is relieved of control of some driving functions, while at least two primary controls are automated.
  • Level 3. The driver can turn over full control of all safety-critical driving functions under limited traffic conditions, while the automation monitors for changes that would require reverting back to the driver’s control. 
  • Level 4. The driver provides destination or navigation input only and is not expected to be available to take over control, and the vehicle both performs all safety-critical driving functions and monitors roadway conditions. 

There is a spectrum of responsibility of the driver to control the vehicle depending on its level of automation.  This spectrum is expected to impact whether the driver can be held liable for accidents that occur while either operating or passively traveling in an automated vehicle.

Drivers or passengers who have been injured in an accident involving an impaired driver should contact an experienced car accident lawyer.

What are Common Causes of Car Accidents?

One of the most common causes of car accidents and fatalities is driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  Almost one-third of all traffic-related fatalities involve drunk drivers. Another significant cause of car accidents is distracted driving.  One reason for the effort toward use of self-driving vehicles is to minimize the frequency of these types of accidents.  Driving under the influence (DUI) is a generic term that covers operation of a vehicle while under the influence of any inebriating substance, including alcohol, cannabis, prescription drugs, and/or illegal drugs. Other terms commonly used include driving while intoxicated (DUI) and operating while intoxicated (OWI). 

How Will Enforcement of DUI Laws Change with Vehicle Automation?

At this time, the law is catching up to the technology. So far, if a driver is involved in an accident while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, standard DUI laws will apply if the level of automation of the vehicle is from 0 to 3.  Since the driver must be ready to take over driving at any time, he or she will be liable for accidents caused by the vehicle. 

The situation will be different once higher levels of automation are involved.  Determining liability will depend on whether it is possible to prove if the driver was actually controlling the vehicle.  It is expected that technology will be able to detect when the driver is operating the vehicle will be available in commercially produced automated vehicles.  If it is possible to prove the driver was in control at the time of an accident, it is likely the driver will be vulnerable to being charged with violating DUI laws and liability for damages and injuries caused. 

Brooklyn Car Accident Lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano Help Drivers Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident

As mentioned, different levels of automation will involve differing levels of liability to drivers involved in a car accident. If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving an impaired driver, reach out to the Brooklyn car accident lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano. We can investigate your accident and determine how you should be compensated.  We will put all our energy and resources to getting you maximum results. We are determined to win for you. Call us today at 718-332-7766 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York, and Hillsborough, New Jersey, we serve clients in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, Kings County, and Richmond County.

Contact the Brooklyn and Staten Island NY Personal Injury Law Firm today with your questions, comments or concerns.

Eaton & Torrenzano has locations in Brooklyn and Staten Island, NY and Hillsborough, NJ. We serve clients throughout Kings County and Richmond County including Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Manhattan, and New Jersey.