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Navigating 2024's new and proposed car laws explains driving regulations at the federal and state levels being proposed in 2024 and how they may affect drivers across the country.


POV of driver looking at road over steering wheel


At both the federal and state levels, new laws regarding car ownership are being proposed in 2024. Since even the simplest forms of legislation can be difficult to understand, breaks down these new driving laws and how they could affect drivers across the country.

At the federal level: Alcohol detection technology

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced in December of last year that it has begun the process dictated in 2021's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for auto manufacturers to adopt in-vehicle technology aimed at preventing intoxicated drivers from starting or operating their vehicles. In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking dated Dec. 12, NHTSA specified technology development requirements for legislation targeting "blood alcohol content detection, impairment-detection (driver monitoring), or a combination." 

While this regulatory notice outlines NHTSA's requirements, it does not offer a firm timeline—or, at best, a malleable one. The legislation "directs NHTSA to issue a final rule (if it would meet the § 30111 criteria) not later than November 15, 2024." However, if NHTSA does not issue a rule by this date, it must submit a report to Congress explaining (among other things) the reasons for not issuing a final rule." The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law does not stipulate full adoption until 2026. What this means is that while the government has now gotten the ball rolling, the road to actual enforcement of this law may be a long one.

Prior to the ratification of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a Senate bill introduced in April 2021 set the tone for what would become NHTSA's role in such rulemaking. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act of 2019 stated that a motor vehicle standard is needed whereby "newly manufactured passenger motor vehicles [are] equipped with technology for detecting and preventing impaired and drunk driving."

Research and development of such technology has been advanced via the Driver Alcohol Detection Method for Safety (DADSS) program, which is a cooperative between the federal government and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, which represents several leading automakers.

One reason that anti-drunk-driving technology has been slow to adopt is that, in order for it to be acceptable both to automakers and the driving public, it must be, according to Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson, accurate. Carlson told Reuters in December 2023, "If it's 99.9% accurate, you could have a million false positives. Those false positives could be somebody trying to get to the hospital for an emergency."

Moreover, like any other safety feature added to a car, some drivers will figure out how to turn it off. Therefore, adding such technology to cars to stop drunk driving must be publicly favorable. 

Now, let's turn to other vehicle laws at both the federal and state levels.

At the federal level: Electric vehicle tax credits and driverless cars

Starting in 2024, the federal tax credit for electric vehicles (EVs) will be subject to new restrictions. Vehicles with battery components sourced from countries deemed "foreign entities of concern" will no longer be eligible for the credit. This could significantly impact the affordability of certain EVs and may influence buying decisions.

As for autonomous vehicles, certain aspects of driver-assistance technology have already seen widespread adoption by global automakers, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, and collision warning systems. But these are not considered to be fully autonomous systems. NHTSA classifies six levels of autonomous vehicle technology, of which levels 0-2 are presently in place. Levels 3 and higher are not available in cars and trucks the average person could test-drive and buy at their local dealer.

While no federal law specifically allows fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) on public roads, several states are experimenting with legislation. The federal government is also developing guidelines and regulations for the safe deployment of AVs. 

At the state level

In California, several pieces of legislation were introduced in 2023 that are expected to be debated and potentially passed this year, among them an update to the state's low carbon fuel standards and on-road motorcycle registration and emissions standards.

The state of New York is considering new legislation concerning the operation of fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a human driver. A bill introduced in the state Senate last year would prohibit "any motor vehicle with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of ten thousand one pounds or more which utilizes autonomous vehicle technology from being operated on public highways unless a natural person holding a valid license for the operation of the motor vehicle's class is present within such vehicle." 

The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a database of all bills proposed in each state concerning the adoption or restriction of autonomous vehicle technology.

Other potential changes

Many states are considering legislation requiring new cars to be equipped with advanced safety features, such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a database of all bills proposed in each state concerning the adoption or restriction of autonomous vehicles and advanced safety technology.

Fuel economy standards for new vehicles will go into effect for the 2024 model year. The new standard dictates that fuel efficiency increase 8% for model years 2024 and 2025 and 10% for model year 2026. 

This story was produced by and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.