Breathalyzers Soon Mandatory for All Cars

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on 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)

  • joe

    Now the law isn’t just going after drunk drivers, but after everyone. This is becoming more and more a breach of civil rights. The science isn’t perfected, the methods aren’t perfected and it’ll cost companies and individuals billions of dollars to satisfy a lobby. How many more innocent individuals will go to jail or pay huge fines and justify the state’s overexpansion of enforcement?

  • David W

    I’m afraid the word “compassion” has all been shreaded as well under the guise of “safety”. And putting “children” in the midst of all this really takes the cake. No one can argue that a child’s safety is of paramont concern, but that sad part is that they are being “used” to further erode the right of an individual to be an individual and raise his/her’s family the way they see fit.

    Not good. There is nothing good about it and in the end? It will be the children that suffer the most as the word “freedom” will pretty much be history in the world they step into as an adult.

  • koivisto

    Well, the thought police are alive and well. Millions literally are starving on this planet earth, but by god we’ll put a stop to this horrible DUI situation. I’ve always been a firm believer in prioritizing, but some people didn’t get that memo. Mr. Taylor, beam me up!!!!

  • meloywilllovethis

    Everyone talks about civil rights, but where is it written in the Constitution that you have the right to buy a car, or even drive one? If you don’t like the fact that manufacturers are putting IID’s into cars, then don’t buy a car. Unfortunately laws like these seem to be the future because people can’t be counted on to protect or police themselves.

  • justgonnastay

    meloywilllovethis – “people can’t be counted on to protect or police themselves?” Are you serious? The ability to police or protect ourselves is being systematically removed by those in power who don’t believe we can. Unfortunately, many among us don’t have enough faith in themselves or others and are allowing it. Apparently you are among that group. It’s sad.

  • benene splat

    Notwithstanding the cost, privacy, and nanny issues this implementation brings up, couldn’t we bypass the whole technology by carrying a can of compressed air?

    Otherwise, I’m sure the Linux hackers will have it bypassed within hours and a replacement computer chip will be available the first week.

    When an attempt to start the car has been made by a drunken individual, will the car broadcast a notification through lojack or the OnStar system to the local police cruiser so that they can ‘provide assistance’?