Archive for June 27th, 2008

Breathalyzers Soon Mandatory for All Cars

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I’ve written repeated posts in the past about the highly unreliable ignition interlock devices (IIDs) which have been widely publicized by MADD as the way to “eliminate drunk driving once and for all”.  See, for example, The Truth About Ignition Interlock Devices, Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable and New MADD Goal: All Cars Equipped with Breathalyzers

Although these crude in-car breathalyzers are now required in many states for repeat offenders, MADD is promoting them as mandatory equipment for all future vehicles.   Toyota, GM and Saab already have these devices near completion for installation at the factories.  See, Toyota Announces DUI-Proof Cars,  All U.S. Cars to Have Ignition Interlock Devices? and The Car in Your Future.

Technical deficiencies aside, the following editorial from the National Motorists Association offers thoughts about the ramifications of this latest mandatory “safety feature”:


Mandatory In-Car Breathalyzers Coming?

If you’re not a convicted drunk driver, should you still be required to have an in-car breathalyzer fitted (at your expense, ‘natch) to your next new vehicle?

Apparently, some automakers — including GM and Toyota — think so. They and a few others are working together under the auspices of something called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which is a $10 million federal “research program” that is trying to develop just such technology for mass introduction a few years from now.

At the moment, the only people who have to deal with (and pay for) in-car Breathalyzers are convicted drunks; the devices are basically ignition locks that prevent the vehicle’s engine from being started until the would-be driver blows into the tube and the system determines he’s not liquored up.

But by 2012 or so, in-car breath sniffers could be standard equipment in every new vehicle sold, force-fed to you by the tag team of Washington, Detroit and, of course, the ever-busy Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

No conviction necessary…

I dislike drunk drivers as much as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (is anyone actually for drunk driving)? But I certainly do object to policies and regulations that impose cost and hassle and arguably, petit tyranny, on people who have done absolutely nothing to warrant it.

This isn’t about nannyism so much as it is about upending a few basic bedrock Western ideas about criminal justice, rights and responsibilities. Chief among these being that each of us gets treated as a specific individual.

If we do something wrong, we get specifically held accountable for it;  the guy next door who had nothing to do with it isn’t dragged along for the ride. But that’s just what is happening here — indeed, has already happened — from those so-called “sobriety checkpoints” (which mostly “check”  perfectly sober drivers) to the growing kudzu of “primary enforcement” seat belts laws that pester (and ticket) people for not wearing a seat belt, an action that may not be especially smart on an individual level but which has very little to do with the safety or well-being of others

People used to get that; today, most don’t seem to. It’s the only way to explain the tsunami-like effectiveness of the word, “safety” — which doesn’t have to be specifically defined, quantified, subjected to cost-benefit analysis or throttled back by the once-superior claim of the individual’s “personal bubble of authority” — where he or she formerly reigned supreme, free of the suffocating and endless edicts of others who claim their evaluation of a perceived risk trumps your personal right to choose.

Just say “safety” (and for added emphasis, include “our children”) and no objection can be sustained…


To more fully appreciate how obtrusive these devices are — and how many things can go wrong — see a Japanese TV newscast (English language) on YouTube about Toyota’s IID.


(Thanks to Andre)

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