I posted a few days ago about the recent appointment of Chuck Hurley, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. See Ex-CEO of MADD to Set Vehicle Safety Standards. One inevitable consequence: You can expect ignition interlock devices (mini-breathalyzers) installed as standard equipment in all vehicles in the near future. See New MADD Goal: All Cars Equipped With Breathalyzers.
It seems others are also less than enthusiastic about the appointment. The following editorial appeared in the Washington Times:
Editorial: MADD About Regulation
Wash., DC. April 24 – President Obama’s pick to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration raises a few red flags. If confirmed by the Senate, Chuck Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, will drive motorists over the cliff with regulation.
The nation’s traffic-safety czar has broad powers to control the roads and road-going habits of Americans. Mr. Hurley has a history of pushing laws that harass millions of law-abiding citizens to ensnare a few lawbreakers. He supports returning the 55 mph speed limit to our highways as well as roadblocks and random pullovers to make sure drivers aren’t doing anything wrong. This methodology is based on a presumption of guilt – not innocence – of the average driver who is doing nothing wrong.
Mr. Hurley has promoted a mania of overregulation at MADD. Absent from his advocacies is the principle that a punishment should fit the crime, or that a crime even needs to be committed to incur a penalty. Under this influence, MADD has been lobbying to lower the allowable blood-alcohol content (BAC) for drivers to .04 – which means one glass of Pinot can land anyone behind bars. We do not condone drinking and driving, but the constant lowering of BAC limits has separated what is punishable from what is actually dangerous.
As a result of MADD-fueled binges for tougher laws, extreme drunken driving punishments – such as loss of driving privileges, jail time, fines and legal fees beyond $10,000 – often apply to individuals who were not drunk and in some cases were not even driving. Last month, the Connecticut Supreme Court unanimously upheld a driving-under-the-influence conviction against a man who was sleeping off his bender in his car even though the keys were not in the ignition. In 2005, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a DUI sentence for a tipsy man riding a motorized skateboard. The Georgia State Police charged a woman with drunken driving for riding a horse.
Such absurd cases will continue to proliferate as long as the breathalyzer machine is the sole determinant of guilt rather than evidence of unsafe conduct. Machines are prone to error, and basing guilt on a digital reading leaves little room for the specific facts of an individual situation…
The position of NHTSA chief requires an administrator of sound judgment, not a zealot beholden to special interests. Mr. Hurley’s associations and background raise the specter that he could use NHTSA regulations and safety grants to benefit his friends and coerce states into adopting his overbearing pet policies. Mr. Hurley should be offered one (but only one) for the road and sent on his way.
(Thanks to Jeanne Pruett)