Alcohol Interlocking Devices For All New Cars, Good or Bad Idea?

The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act of 2019, per U.S. Senate Bill 2604, and its counterpart House Bill 3159, if enacted, will require all new vehicles to have alcohol detection systems within four years. This is a zero-tolerance concept that will subject the vast majority of motorists to intrusive testing every time they get behind the wheel. I suppose a lot of people who never drive drunk will think this is a good idea. After all, drunk drivers are an existential threat to all of us.

Jeez, it feels good that I finally got to use that very trendy word, “Existential.” I’m not sure what it means, but who cares. I doubt that many people who use it lot don’t know what it means either. But I digress.

Actually, I do know what it means but it’s so pedestrian a cool cat wouldn’t want to waste time on “pertaining to existence” when you have such a fashionable attractive and  impressive word as “existential” to make you sound and appear erudite. Oops, digressing again.

Forcing ignition interlocks on all new cars may sound like a great idea for fighting the dangerous scourge of drunk driving. It’s not a  great idea, it’s not a good idea, it’s very bad idea. I was deeply saddened to see that Republican Senator from Florida, Rick Scott, is one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 2604. I was further saddened to learn that already 6 Republicans in the House have also signed on to it.

The thinking that supports this nonsense is more emotional than rational.

The inconvenience of an ignition interlock to the vast majority of motorists who never drive drunk and pose no threat to anyone is simply not justified. While it will needlessly interfere with 90% or more of the driving public, it’s also no guarantee that drunks will stop menacing our roads. The cause of horrific traffic crashes is not social drinkers. The problem is the recidivist drunks with very high BAC and the determination they have to stay drunk most of the time.

The real alcoholics not the average motorist should be the target of aggressive DUI enforcement. It is they, not the rest of us, who are killing innocent people on the highway. There must be way to target these individuals without forcing a hundred million innocent people to blow into a tube every time they want start their car.

Being a mechanical device, an ignition interlock can fail and unreasonably frustrate a perfectly sober person. The true drunks may also find ways to defeat the device. If so, nothing will be accomplished and pointless interference will be imposed on those who do not deserve it.

A few decades ago the great and wise Thomas Sowell wrote a great book (all his books are wise and great) titled “A Conflict of Visions.”

He said there are two competing visions that are predominant in Western culture. He named them the “Constrained” vision and the “Unconstrained” vision. Those of the unconstrained vision believe that human culture can be perfected if only the “right people” are in control of everything. Those of the constrained vision are more pragmatic. They prefer dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. These two conflicting visions have existed between human beings for a very long time, perhaps as long as the human animal has existed.

While those afflicted with the unconstrained vision will search for perfection is nearly everything, the constrained vision accepts the reality that most everything in our experience with involve trade offs. Perfection is seldom achieved, if ever. As a matter of fact, relentlessly striving for perfection in everything may make matters worse, not better.
Expecting perfection where it does not exist can lead to disaster. An example might be the safety on a pistol or rifle. Since it is a mechanical device, it can fail. Those of the constrained vision will engage the safety but they will not fool themselves into thinking the gun is now perfectly safe. Those of the unconstrained vision are  more likely to make a life-changing tragic mistake.
It is clearly the unconstrained vision that wants to put alcohol detection devices in all cars. They will believe they have made us all perfectly safe from drunk drivers.
This device is going to be a nuisance that most drivers will hate. It can fail and prevent a sober driver from being able to start the car. If they are on a jeep trail high in the mountains this could be a life or death matter. If one is in a bitter winter storm in a remote location and cannot start the car they may be in danger of freezing. The nuisance factor will lead to many finding ways around it. They will be breaking a law they do not respect because it is not worthy of respect. There are so many trade offs involved a sensible person will realize immediately that there are too many to make interlock devices worthwhile for the majority of people. That majority do not drink and drive and therefore pose no threat to anyone. Only an oppressive government will mandate these devices on all cars.
As always, the prefect is the enemy of the good.



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