What Should Be Done About Drunk Driving ?
Today, the New York Times writes about the increasing movement to require even first-time DUI offenders to have ignition-interlock systems installed on their cars that would require them to pass a breathalyzer test before they could start their cars:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 — The threat of arrest and punishment, for decades the primary tactic against drunken drivers, is no longer working in the struggle to reduce the death toll, officials say, and they are proposing turning to technology — alcohol detection devices in every vehicle — to address the problem.
In the first phase of the plan, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, backed by a national association of state highway officials and car manufacturers, will announce here on Monday a campaign to change drunken driving laws in 49 states to require that even first offenders install a device that tests drivers and shuts down the car if it detects alcohol.
Many states already require the devices, known as ignition interlocks, for people who have been convicted several times. Last year New Mexico became the first to make them mandatory after a first offense. With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year.
Here in Virginia, ignition interlocks are required even for first time offenders whose BAC level exceeds a certain limit. And, it’s hard to see many people arguing against extending these requirements to everyone convicted of a DUI offense, as New Mexico is poised to do. The problem, though, is that it’s quite easy to see where MADD is headed next:
Two companies have introduced products that hint at future strategies. Saab, which is owned by General Motors, is testing in Sweden a Breathalyzer that attaches to a key chain and will prevent a car from starting if it senses too much alcohol. Taxi companies and other fleet owners are the target market, the company said.
A New Mexico company, TruTouch Technologies, is modifying a technique developed for measuring blood chemistry in diabetics and using it to measure alcohol instead. The appliance shines a light through the skin on the forearm and analyzes what bounces back.
Future devices may read alcohol content when a driver’s palm touches the steering wheel or the gear shift lever, said Jim McNally, the chief executive of TruTouch.
In other words, Big Brother will be watching what you drink. Sean Lynch writes about this issue today at Catallarchy and makes this excellent point:
Far more motor vehicle deaths are provably caused by excessive speed. Most people who receive speeding tickets have received a speeding ticket before, and most people who receive one speeding ticket will eventually receive a second. Therefore, let’s require everyone who has ever received a speeding ticket to have a device installed in their car from exceeding the posted speed limit. Everyone knows that posted speed limits are frequently too low, just like a .08% BAC is too low for the vast majority of the population. And almost all of us speed, just like most of us have driven with >= .08% BAC at some point in our lives. But, of course, since we’re suddenly talking about the majority instead of some demonizable minority (i.e. “drunk drivers”), such a requirement would never pass.
Or would it ?