27 Nov 2006

Technological "Solution" to Drunk Driving

[This was originally submitted as a Slashdot FP story but wasn’t accepted.]

The U.S.-based anti-drunk-driving group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has announced its new campaign this week, which prominently features technological measures against drunk driving. In particular, MADD is planning a nationwide call for wider use of “ignition interlocks,” devices which require a driver to blow into a Breathalyzer in order to start their car, for all convicted drunk drivers and not just repeat offenders. However, the group sees this as only the first stage in a wider plan, which would eventually make Breathalyzer-like devices standard equipment in all U.S. automobiles. According to the N.Y. Times article: “Ms. Ferguson said the most promising technologies would work automatically, like air bags.” Automatic, mandatory alcohol sensing has received support from the Governors Highway Safety Association, whose chairman was quoted as saying “When 40 percent of all our crashes are alcohol-involved, I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult of a sell.”

As several people who commented on this pointed out, there’s really no end to why this is a bad idea. First, the interlocks cost substantial sums of money to calibrate (apparently about $75/mo.), which would be picked up by taxpayers, and they’re trivial to defeat. All I see in this plan would be an expensive, false sense of security, and a distraction from more effective plans.

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