A debate is raging over an effort to develop technology effectively shutting down cars when alcohol is detected in a driver's bloodstream - with proponents saying it would be an optional tool that will save lives and critics contending that a nanny-state government will use it to keep Americans from driving home after drinking a single beer at a baseball game.
The catalyst is a push by New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer to provide $60 million over five years to develop in-vehicle technology that would recognize a driver's blood alcohol concentration.
The goal is a non-intrusive alcohol level detection system, something that requires virtually no effort (unlike the ignition interlocks imposed on convicted drunk drivers that require breath samples to start a car). While it's too early to know what the technology would look like, it could be anything from a system that can read a finger when it touches a steering wheel to a mechanism that detects the presence of alcohol from a driver's normal breathing.
Schumer made the case for the legislation today near Buffalo, next to a woman whose daughter was killed in a drunk driving accident that would not have taken place had the daughter not been able to get being the wheel. ... The senator insists the technology would not be required by the federal government, though states could potentially mandate it. "The first job is to perfect the technology," Schumer said, according to the Buffalo News. "Then it will be up to each state legislature to decide whether they want to mandate it in the cars sold in that state or just limited it, and we'll have to decide that."
But critics say there is ample evidence that interest groups will eventually push the federal government to install it in every car in America. And they say that it will mean that even simply having one glass of wine with dinner could make it impossible to operate a vehicle.
Sarah Longwell, the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, argues that the group that would receive the funding - the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program - has made clear that it wants the technology in every car in America. (For proof, Longwell sent Hotsheet a slide from a presentation DADDS gave last year suggesting exactly that.) Further, she said, because the devices would allow for a margin of error below the .08 percent blood alcohol level legal limit, people might effectively be deemed impaired by their vehicle after only one drink. ... Longwell says the primary reason that the devices would be set below .08 percent (she says they would potentially be at .03 or .04) is that alcohol needs time to work its way through the body. The argument is that since someone could have three quick drinks and jump in the car - keeping their blood alcohol level below .08, even if they are well on their way to crossing it - it would be seen as necessary to set the device to a lower level.
DADSS' Susan Ferguson seemed to concede as much in a story last year in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, saying it's safer to err on the side of keeping drunk drivers off the roads. But Wade Newton, spokesperson for Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, says that's not the case - the law is .08, he said, and the devices would thus be set there.
Bad idea. I'd hate for my car to shut me down after I've taken my kid to a ball game because I've had my traditional one Leine's Red. If this thing malfunctions I've suddenly got to walk a child home several miles.
knapplc wrote:Bad idea. I'd hate for my car to shut me down after I've taken my kid to a ball game because I've had my traditional one Leine's Red. If this thing malfunctions I've suddenly got to walk a child home several miles.
I agree. There are many people (myself included) that really don't feel one or two beers. I can easily drive after having one beer, so my car shouldn't shut down in that case.
If the things are set up so that it only cuts off if you're over 0.08 or whatever your legal limit is, then 2 drinks shouldn't make it cut off. For a male, your BAC raises approx. 0.025 per drink per hour (women are 0.03 per drink per hour). If the technology actually worked flawlessly, then I would be in support of it. I know too many people that drive when they're over the legal limit (myself included in the past), and I've known some who died in alcohol related crashes while killing innocents in another car as well.
I think it's mostly pointless though and here's why: the article said it's an OPTIONAL tool. If someone is going to drive drunk, they simply wouldn't install it in the first place, and if someone's willing to use it, it's likely they wouldn't drive after having too much to drink anyway.