Within a recent congressional appropriations spending package is a little discussed spending provision that could soon effect the rights and freedoms of anyone who drives a motor vehicle, whether convicted of a dui offense or not.
At least 10 million dollars of taxpayer money has initially been allocated for the development of a so called, “non invasive” ignition interlock device that will prevent any new manufactured car from starting if alcohol is detected coming from the potential driver of the vehicle. With prior congressional spending packages as precedent, this initial money is just the beginning.
How this device will work has not been determined. However, fueled by the motivations of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as well as the private companies and researchers who stand to gain millions in research funds for the development of such a contraption, it is thought that perhaps a device can somehow be developed to measure alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream without the requirement to blow into a conventional breathalyzer.
Whether such a device would measure blood alcohol content through expelled breath of a driver or by fingers affixed to a steering wheel is not really relevant to MADD or the private corporations involved in potential research.
What must be questioned is the financial windfall such companies and researchers stand to gain while keeping the name MADD foremost in the minds of the American consciousness.
While it would be wonderful to eliminate drunk driving altogether, no one wishes to be the one labeled as “soft” on drunk driving by pointing out the potential folly of untold millions of taxpayer money soon to be spent on a project that if successful, would not only restrict the freedoms of all Americans, but could cost all citizens thousands of dollars per new vehicle sold. This increased initial vehicle cost doesn’t even include potential updating and repair costs such devices would bring to each and every car owner in America.
This of course assumes that such a breath test device could even be developed, and if so, at what legal and financial cost to the average citizen? After all, most law abiding Americans could say, “I don’t drive drunk, what do I have to fear with an alcohol monitoring system affixed within my car?” Plenty.
For the purpose of discussion, let us assume that after countless millions of dollars of taxpayer money has been spent on a mandatory alcohol monitoring device affixed on all vehicles, that such a device actually works. Would such a device actually prove effective? Would such a device prove to be worth the extra cost on every vehicle? Would such device bring its own safety concerns?
Sure it may sound beneficial in theory for a device to measure the presence of alcohol in the air from within the driver’s compartment of a vehicle. Would this device somehow eliminate the expended air of an intoxicated passenger? Would a designated driver need to worry that his or her car would be rendered inoperable due to the presence of alcohol from anywhere within his or her vehicle?
Perhaps detecting alcohol through one’s fingers while holding a steering wheel is the answer. Couldn’t one determined to drive a vehicle simply do so with gloves on? Or perhaps have a friend use his hands to start his or her car for them?
In theory, once Madd and private enterprise overcome these obstacles to generate more research millions, how would they respond to the safety concerns such devices would bring?
For example, the percentage of blood alcohol content rises reaching its peak approximately one hour from the last consumed drink of alcohol. If I enter a vehicle at .05 and my vehicle starts, do I not have the right to believe I am not intoxicated and fit to drive? If after beginning a trip, my blood alcohol content rises above the legal limit of .08 does my vehicle suddenly shut off in the middle of the highway posing even more safety concerns to those driving around me? Will I be left stranded somewhere by the side of a roadway with an inoperable vehicle? Will I sit by the side of the road awaiting a police officer to arrest me for drunk driving?
Such questions are inconvenient and get in the way of the profit motive such researchers presently stand to gain.
Legally, almost all states have some versions of laws recognizing a legal need to drive in emergency situations even if above the legal limit for alcohol. In a frequently cited example, friends go camping at night and have a few beers by the fire. A cell phone rings with the news that an emergency arises at home. In the MADD sanctioned cars of the future, we’d all be out of luck. Helpless beside a car that will not operate whether we’re just above the legal limit or not.
As to financial cost, just who do you think will ultimately pay for such devices? You and me of course, whether law abiding citizens or not. Buying a car? Expect to pay hundreds or even thousands more. The device malfunctions, who pays to repair it? You guessed it, you and I will.
Eliminating drunk driving is a noble goal for all Americans. Presently, rates of drunk driving have been steadily decreasing. This is so because of an increased awareness of drunk driving and police departments nationwide devoting the time and attention to arrest those demonstrating impaired actions on our roadways.
The ultimate issue of mandatory ignition interlock devices in all vehicles is really not a question of decreasing drunk driving. It is the solution of MADD with the help of the profit motive of private enterprise to eliminate the prospect of responsible drinking altogether.
MADD very well knows that for most responsible people, a glass of wine at a restaurant or one beer at a ballgame would be a daunting prospect for one fearful that his or vehicle will be rendered inoperable, whether the intent is to drink responsibly or not.
While it is the choice of some not to drink alcohol in any form at any time, for the majority of law abiding Americans, choosing to drink alcohol in a responsible fashion is an enjoyable part of life.
For such people, the sticker shock of costly vehicles imposed upon us all that further restrict the liberties of law abiding Americans could be just around the corner. We all must be sober to that reality before it is too late.