Sarah Longwell, Washington, column: ‘Safe driving’ technology targets social drinkersThe political effort to put alcohol sensing technology in all cars is part of a larger campaign to quash social drinking.
By: Sarah Longwell,
By Sarah Longwell
WASHINGTON — Given all of the discussion of federal deficits, Herald readers might be surprised to learn that advocates of the nanny state now want to spend another $24 million in your taxpayer dollars in an effort to stop you from having a glass of wine with dinner before you get behind the wheel.
This expenditure is supported by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., as well as Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both D-Minn.
The recently passed Senate Highway Bill contains provisions heavily supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving that would spend taxpayer money on the further development of an alcohol-detection device that would eventually become standard in all cars.
Known as DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detector System for Safety), the technology uses a variety of sensors to determine the blood alcohol content of a driver through their skin and breath.
While some officials are denying their intention to put this intrusive technology in all cars, the Department of Transportation is on record as stating that “the goal over time is to equip all passenger vehicles in the United States with the technology.”
MADD’s president admits that the organization wants to see the devices as standard in vehicles as seatbelts or airbags.
Once installed, proponents claim these devices will ensure those with a BAC above the legal limit of 0.08 percent can’t drive.
And if that were case, our industry could happily support the technology.
Unfortunately, the devices will be calibrated to be set well below the legal limit.
Basic physiology. It can take a couple of hours for a person to reach peak BAC after he stops drinking. This means that a person could have five drinks and still have a BAC below 0.08 when he or she started your car.
But that BAC level would continue to rise and could cross the 0.08 legal threshold while the person was driving. Then it could rise to levels well beyond the legal limit.
Should that driver get into an automobile accident, DADSS manufacturers and car companies both could be held legally liable in civil cases, at the very least.
To avoid such litigation, the alcohol detection devices will have to be calibrated well below the legal limit and could be set as low as 0.02, the BAC level most individuals reach after only one drink.
The political effort to put alcohol sensing technology in all cars is part of a larger campaign to quash social drinking.
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both pushed for lowering the legal limit to 0.05.
Leaving biology aside, let’s consider mechanics for a second: Even if these devices meet Six Sigma standards — in other words, they meet the necessary requirements for widespread installation by working properly 99.999966 percent of the time — there still will be 4,000 misreadings per day.
That’s 4,000 stranded moms who can’t pick up their kids from soccer practice, commuters who can’t get to work and delivery drivers with food getting cold in the passenger’s seat.
Given that our country is more than $15.5 trillion in debt, we shouldn’t be using government money — our tax dollars — on the development of a device that will make cars more expensive to buy and maintain, increase the unreliability of our automobiles and make it impossible to enjoy a single drink before driving.
Longwell is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association.