According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding caused 11,258 United States traffic fatalities in 2020. Some traffic fatalities may simply be unavoidable. For example, a cautious, law-abiding driver hits a patch of invisible black ice and loses control of his vehicle. Speeding fatalities, on the other hand, are the result of a conscious choice made by drivers. This has led some traffic safety stakeholders to suggest a simple solution: make it impossible for drivers to make the choice to speed.
While this countermeasure is not currently gaining any significant traction in the U.S., the European Union (EU) has recently taken an initial step to make it a reality. Beginning in 2024, all new cars in the EU must be equipped with “Intelligent Speed Assistance” (ISA). ISA is not a speed governor that caps a vehicle’s speed capability. Rather, it is a series of optical and vibrational warnings that activate when an operator is traveling too fast. In some situations, the technology will automatically reduce the vehicle’s speed, but such automation is overridable by the driver.
ISA is an option on many vehicles manufactured worldwide. But governments (including in the United States) have generally stopped short of requiring it and other traffic safety technologies on new vehicles. This makes the EU’s recent mandate a monumental step in the global struggle to reduce traffic fatalities. Will the United States follow in the EU’s footsteps? Will speeding fatalities one day be nonexistent? Will vehicle technologies cause a drastic shift in the types of cases Texas municipal courts most often hear? As we often say at TMCEC: stay tuned.