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Big Brother...Even in Your Car?

Would you think twice before purchasing a car if it had a built-in alcohol detection system?  Or would you be all for it?

Texas and many other states have laws that require an ignition interlock device on cars in certain situations.  For example, in Texas, the law requires the installation of an ignition interlock device on a person’s car if a person is charged with a subsequent DWI, is convicted of a subsequent DWI, or has a breath or blood alcohol score of .15 or higher.  Although some of those laws are nonsensical (why be required to have a machine on a car if you don’t even have a car for instance), I think the great majority of people agree with them.  The great majority of people being those who do not find themselves in one of the aforementioned categories.  So back to the question at hand – alcohol detection devices coming as standard (not optional) equipment on all vehicles.

That’s the direction we’re headed, and you can imagine why – there’s lots of money to be made for the company that comes up with an unobtrusive vehicular alcohol detection device.  The technology can’t be that far off either.  I think there would be a lot of objections to interlock devices (a.k.a. “blow and go’s”) because they’re just too much of a hassle.  Secure continuous remote alcohol monitors (SCRAM) have already become the norm.  A SCRAM is an ankle monitor that’s worn 24/7 that detects alcohol through a person’s sweat glands.  Would it really be that hard to build that kind of technology into a steering wheel of a car?

There are definitely arguments to be made both ways and too many questions to answer.  On the one hand, we all have an interest in not having drunk drivers on our streets.  On the other, what would be the threshold limit?  After all, it’s different depending on what state you’re in.  How would the technology be able to tell if a person is over or under the legal drinking age?  It’s not illegal to drink and then drive so long as you’re not intoxicated.  Would the readings be reported to anyone?  Would the readings be maintained?  Would the readings be subject to subpoenas?  Would it be the start of an era where police wouldn’t even have to stop and arrest a person for DWI – just receive a report and issue the warrant based on that?

It’s kind of a scary thought but legislation has already begun being drafted around the nation.  And just think about seatbelts.  They haven’t always been required in vehicles.  You could either buy a car with or without seatbelts.  Legislation changed that despite the opposition.  The argument was if you want to be dumb enough to not wear a seatbelt then that should be on you.  That argument works great for a seatbelt – you don’t hurt anyone else besides yourself if you choose not to wear it.  It just doesn’t work so great for alcohol detection devices – the damage isn’t always limited to the driver, unfortunately.

Guess we’ll see what happens.  I don’t want drunk drivers on the road as much as anyone.  But I hate the thought of yet another intrusion by Big Brother and would oppose it.  It begs the question – are our homes next…..?  The slope is slippery.