Big Brother in Your Backseat
Update 9/5: The article link by Sarah Longwell is no longer available at The Hill's website.
Most sober, sensible and sane people would overwhelmingly agree that the best way to curb drunk driving is to keep drunks at the curb, or as far away from the steering wheel as they can get. In her article entitled Big Brother in the Backseat, Sarah Longwell, Managing Director of the American Beverage Institute, reports on a new automobile technology that would sniff the seats and hands of all drivers, sober or not - to decide if the driver is drunk.
The author writes that a “classic bait and switch” plan to keep drunk drivers off the road from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) called the ROADS SAFE Act "would pour $60 million dollars of taxpayer money" into developing “a new generation of in-car alcohol detectors.” Although well-intentioned, such devices could potentially risk leaving millions of sober and or light-drinking drivers stranded alongside strip malls, nightclubs, restaurants, homes and driveways, workplaces and roadsides all across the country. The new generation of in-car alcohol detectors would be embedded in your steering wheel to sniff your seats, hands, and who knows what else to detect traces of alcohol in your car. Once a certain level is detected, the car would not start.
But what if your hands had hand sanitizer on them? Or you just had your nails done? Or you, the driver, were not drinking but the person groping you to your right (that's not ever happened to me, not even as a teen) in the passenger seat was totally sh*tfaced? While drunk driving is a serious problem, aren't there wiser, humane and civil solutions to make use of taxpayer funds that don't demonize sober and responsible drivers? Is putting alcohol detection devices in every car an “overreach and invasion of privacy that will deprive responsible adults of their right to enjoy a drink with dinner?”
Hell yes! And this ingenious, ominous seat and hand sniffing technology in your car may even be an excellent way for a few enterprising, public-private sector “thought leaders” and insiders to turn a mighty fine, profitable return by hooking up to the cash cow auto industry, too! On your taxpayer dime, of course.
Ms. Longwell also points out that while “alcohol detectors are a good tool for getting chronic drunk drivers off our roads”, we ought to be able to fight the problem of drunk driving without treating every American like a bunch of “irresponsible” alcoholics. If such a technology is available, why not limit it to the pool of “chronic” offenders instead of millions of non-lushes who drive?
In fact, why not kick social services programs to the curb, too? Perhaps all of those successful, good old fashioned, taxpayer funded alcohol rehabilitation programs that once employed millions of psychologists and social workers with good wages and benefits in alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs that flourished during the Carter administration years just aren't as profitable as an infinite supply chain of seat and hand sniffers to be installed in every vehicle from Detroit to the Delta from now to Kingdom Come?
Somebody has to prosper, and if this well-intentioned seat and hand sniffing detector is any gage of how far humanity has evolved in the emerging public/private partnership 21st century, drunk driving prevention, innovative technologies, and rehabilitation solutions that would be smart, humane, sensible and civil may have to take a backseat.
Party on (responsibly and safely), plebes!