What the Alcohol Industry (and Drivers) Can Gain from Autonomous Cars

April 2, 2018 · by rosenblumlawfirm · in

The Coalition for Future Mobility (CFM), an industry group hoping to get mainstream acceptance of self-driving cars, recently gained two powerful allies: the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), an national industry trade body representing 360 alcoholic beverage companies, and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), an industry-funded nonprofit that battles underage drinking and drunk driving.

CFM is currently comprised primarily of auto and tech companies, eager to be at the front of the line if and when the technology is able to clear the legislative and regulatory hurdles to permit fully-automated cars on U.S. highways. With WSWA and FAAR adding their voices to the cause, it seems the alcohol industry sees an opportunity to tackle a long-standing thorn in its side and eradicate the problem of drunk driving once and for all.

Approximately 29 people are killed in the United States each day in alcohol-related accidents. Despite the fact that drunk driving fatalities have fallen by a third in the last three decades, drunk driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year. In New York, which has some of the lowest drunk driving rates in the nation, alcohol-related accidents were responsible for 311 deaths in 2015, representing 28 percent of all traffic fatalities.  

When driverless cars are introduced, the rationale goes, people can consume as much alcohol as they want and still be able to get home safely without the need for a cab or designated driver. Some studies have shown that the rise of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have made a dent in drunk driving rates—but the results are not universal. The same can be said of public transportation.

California and Arizona have led the way in permitting autonomous vehicles on public roads, but New York and other states continue to hesitate amid safety concerns and the relative infancy of the technology. In fact, the first autonomous Uber death was reported in March 2018.

New York State takes drunk driving seriously and the penalties for it are severe. A charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) applies to any driver caught behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. A conviction for a first offense means possible fines of $500 to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. Drivers will also see their license revoked for at least one year. In some cases, a judge may require the installation of an expensive ignition interlock device. Auto insurers have been known to raise rates by as much as 47 percent—and sometimes drop customers altogether.

If you or someone you love has been charged with drunk driving or any other serious traffic violation, you need the assistance of an attorney who will work hard to protect your rights. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm have extensive experience fighting drunk driving and other traffic-related crimes in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.