Driving Drunk – A Cherished Tradition

by updated 2011/02/05

Or at least it is cherished by the drunks. We have heard before about mass-produced cars that will detect whether a driver is drunk and not allow the engine to start. This story sometimes seems like the saga of cold fusion… which for 20 years has been 10 years in the future. Earlier this week newspapers all over the world, from the Economic Times of India to our small local paper covered a photo-op by Transportation Secretary, Ray Lahood.  In this appearance he lent credence to a public demonstration of an alcohol detection system that could become part of new cars sold in the U.S. Or at least that was the story.

Like many people, I excitedly read these stories, thinking of what a great tool this would be to keep drunks from driving, and often killing and maiming other innocent drivers. I do know the kind of furor these devices would create among people who view such things as invasions of privacy, government intrusion, or infringement on freedoms. But come on I thought, even the most ardent civil libertarian would be hard-pressed to object to this safety device. Certainly the only real objections would come from alcohol abusers that wanted to continue their drunken driving undetected. Undetected that is until they kill someone or if lucky get pulled over and arrested before they cause a tragedy. Right? Makes sense doesn’t it? Oh well, silly me. Of course it doesn’t.

In one of the articles, I found the key piece of information tucked into the next-to-last sentence. These devices would be optional equipment and not required to be installed in new cars. The installation of these alcohol detecting devices would be optional!!!???? So all of us that never drink and drive, ever, would buy new cars with the technology? And people who do drive after drinking would buy cars without it? Well maybe not exactly. If the technology is optional, then businesses might install it in fleet cars, but many non-drinkers would not. They would not because they might worry about the resale value of a car that has the device installed. After all if your used car has the device, you are limiting your potential buyers to people who want a car with it installed. It is sort of like smoking and dating. I know a decent, normal, 40 something year old guy who cannot find a mate. He smokes. So he has eliminated 80% of the women he meets before he even starts looking. I told him to get rid of the butts and he might find who he is looking for.  He laughed, thinking I was joking.   If the technology to stop drinking and driving is installed in a car, you do limit the salability of the car a bit. Or so I thought.

I posted a few of my thoughts on a forum discussing this issue and was told that having the devices installed would not affect re-sale value because any new owner could easily have it removed or disabled. I have also been flamed by many people who see this as a government intrusion, unconstitutional, (??), or even a “civil rights” issue. So much for my silly thoughts on that part of the debate. I was also struck by how many people were worried about the technology being inaccurate or mal-functioning. As one person said; if the device is set to detect an alcohol level of .08 or above and my level is .07, what if it shuts me out from driving? To that all I can do is applaud the device and ask you “where is your brain”? If these devices do ever become common I think they should be set well below .08. As that may run into legal problems, at least setting them at the legal limit would be a start.  And for the few that might get locked out because the device calculates their alcohol a little too high, I say tough luck.  You, and the rest of us, will be better off without you being behind the wheel.  Still, I seem to be in the minority.  The Huffington Post wrote about the automobile alcohol detecting devices and most of the comments are exactly opposite my view.

In summary, this technology will never work unless all of the following are true:

1. The devices must be required on all new cars, and maybe incentives given to install them on used cars.

2. They must be installed in such a way that they cannot be removed, disabled, or bypassed.

3.  They must not be easily fooled.  For example the skin sensing technology discussed in some of the articles could be bypassed just by wearing gloves.

4.  We must stand up to the people who are against the technology in the same way that we stood up to those opposed to seat belt and child safety seat requirements.

My belief is that the photo-op by Mr. Lahood was just more political grandstanding aimed at trying to fool people into thinking something is really being done to prevent intoxicated driving.  I think we must see this technology for what it really is.  It is a method to greatly reduce the carnage caused by drunk driving. It does not matter whether it is a teenager truly making a bad decision or a seasoned drunk who has driven intoxicated many times before.  I would rather see people stopped from driving drunk in the first place than witness the results of their driving.  I would rather see them stopped from driving drunk than see them put them in jail for doing so.

It seems like a simple solution to a terrible problem.  What do you think?

Will Sig
1 jc

What do I think? I think you are an idiot!

Reply

2 Will

Ha! That did not take long! Thanks JC. Care to elaborate? I did not think so.

Reply

3 Binky

A good idea, but I doubt it will work. First, too many people will object, and second, cost will be an issue. If they were installed in all new cars, the worst offenders would probably drive older cars, at least until there was a device to fool or bypass the control. Different areas have different allowable blood alcohol levels, and what happens when those allowable levels go down? And then of course there are drugs.

The super-simple solution is to simply not drive after drinking, but of course we know that doesn’t work either. Higher fines, stiffer penalties, better education, and more enforcement are probably the only ways to reduce drunk driving.
Binky recently posted..Obtuse WinkyMy Profile

Reply

4 Will

Well the “too many people will object thought” I think you are right on. But I still don’t understand the objections. Yeah the worst offender may already drive old cars, but old cars don’t last forever. The differing blood alcohol levels could be standardized. Drugs are an issue to be sure, but alcohol is a much bigger killer.

Education maybe, but who does not already know it is illegal, dangerous, and anti-social behavior? Those that do it anyway don’t care. More enforcement is probably more expensive than mandating the devices. What kind of stiffer penalties? The first time offender who is straightened out by current penalties will not re-offend anyway. The rest who repeatedly drink and drive will not stop because of the penalties. Jailing them is a huge cost also. And I am not sure jailing drunks makes them a better person in the end.

I think a system, maybe not this one but some system, to prevent driving while drunk is our best option and the best start. Then maybe we can figure out what to do about drug intoxication.

Oh well, tough subject. Maybe this will get re-tweeted or something and we will hear from others. Maybe they can help me see the objections that the masses have. As I said over on the Huffington Post there are a lot of objectors, but when I was there this morning, not a lot of rational discussion.

On edit: I was just looking at Google analytics checking for funny searches and noticed 2 visits from Fark.com. I think they were looking at an old post that got listed there last year. I guess I should be careful about wanting input on this post. If a Farker sees this one and decides to list it, I’ll be in big trouble!

Reply

5 Binky

I don’t disagree with you, I just don’t think such a system will be implemented. I would love to be proven wrong. As cars get smarter with collision avoidance systems and the like, perhaps it could be incorporated as some sort of total safety package. One thing that might work is if insurance companies would give significant discounts with such a system installed. Money is always a great motivator.
Binky recently posted..Obtuse WinkyMy Profile

Reply

6 Will

Great point about the smart cars. It may become irrelevant if those systems become good enough. Our grandchildren may be having dinner and drinks in their cars on the way home, not having to pay a bit of attention to the driving. Well, maybe great-grandchildren.

The insurance companies could indeed become a big motivator for this. I did not think about that. You know our insurance company does not allow trampolines. They just choose to not insure people with them. If you lie and get insurance from them even with a trampoline, they will just deny your claim if you have one. It is right in the print of our policy. They may choose to do the same with these alcohol detection devices once the technology is available.

Reply

7 Tony McGurk

Great post Will & I am totally incensed by those who drink & drive. Their “personal rights” end the minute they act in such a way as to endanger the lives of others.

Reply

8 Tony

Great post Will & I am totally incensed by those who drink & drive. Their “personal rights” end the minute they act in such a way as to endanger the lives of others.
Tony recently posted..Comic for Sunday 6 Feb 2011My Profile

Reply

9 Tony McGurk

I had to finish because I had a phone call from my daughter. Back now. It’s funny how those who do the wrong thing protest so much about any efforts to enforce them to do the right thing. Michelle’s brother was killed by a drunk driver when he was only 9 years old. These selfish mongrels don’t seem to care about the injury or death they could cause to others instead they just bleat on about their supposed rights. They make me sick!!!
Makes me wonder if your friend JC is one of the drunk driver brigade. I guess it’s impossible for Governments to legislate for people to have common sense & act responsibly. The world is full of too many brainless morons…

Reply

10 Tony

I had to finish because I had a phone call from my daughter. Back now. It’s funny how those who do the wrong thing protest so much about any efforts to enforce them to do the right thing. Michelle’s brother was killed by a drunk driver when he was only 9 years old. These selfish mongrels don’t seem to care about the injury or death they could cause to others instead they just bleat on about their supposed rights. They make me sick!!!
Makes me wonder if your friend JC is one of the drunk driver brigade. I guess it’s impossible for Governments to legislate for people to have common sense & act responsibly. The world is full of too many brainless morons…
Tony recently posted..Comic for Sunday 6 Feb 2011My Profile

Reply

11 Will

Tony – Sorry to hear about Michelle’s brother. You never really get over something like that. I have known a few people killed by drunk drivers. And I am one of the lucky ones that is only a few.

People who drive drunk will never be deterred by laws and I don’t want them to. I don’t want them to suffer the consequences of their stupidity any more than I want to see the consequences for their innocent victims. They need to be stopped before they drive. That is the best solution for others as well as themselves. As the story about Ray Lahood’s visit to that manufacturer shows, there is no political will to do it in the U.S.

And who knows about JC? But I doubt he will be back to defend his opinion of the post.

Reply

12 Faythe

I agree with the conditions in order to make it work… I know some states or counties are making drunk drivers add them to their cars after an offense. but what would stop them from using an older car or someone elses? If you want to drink, get a driver or stay at home.
Faythe recently posted..Green Bay Packer fans have the fever!My Profile

Reply

13 Rob

My view from a different political culture is to support what you say but to add that I would prefer to see the introduction of available technology that automatically limited driving speeds in built up areas and that allowed the authorities to check that all drivers drove insured and roadworthy vehicles.

My faith in political leaders took a beating during Tony Blair’s Premiership and will take a long time to recover Will.

Rant over!!!!
Rob recently posted..Top ten blogs!My Profile

Reply

14 Julie

That could be an interesting tool since, unfortunately, a lot of people are unable to control themselves. I mean I would prefer that people who drank alcohol say “I can’t drive, it’s not safe”. Cars or devices like this should not exist but if it’s the only way to be safe, then, let’s think about it. However, what if a person (a passenger) who is not drunk pass the test instead of the driver so that he can drive ? We all know that situations like this would occur. The problem is still there and it’s very difficult to solve it. Responsibility is the basis concerning driving safety, every drunk driver should be to say “No, I can’t drive”.
Julie recently posted..Du riz chinois pollué par des métaux lourds My Profile

Reply

15 Douglas

I think there some car manufacturers that make a car that can sense of the drivers is int the influence of alcohol. They put it in some of their cars. I think it’s called the odor sensor in which if your detected that your in influence of alcohol the engine won’t start.

Reply

Thank you for your comments

CommentLuv badge
My full comment policy is linked here, but please do not use a keyword as your name. For great referrrals and backlinks, link to your site in the box and by using CommentLuv

Previous post:

Next post: