February 19, 2004
Welcome to the Nanny State, Please Take a Seat

Slashdot brings us the latest example of "everything looks like a nail" government:

Monday the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill that would require every car sold in the state to have an ignition interlock. This device is essentially a breath analyzer that prevents the car from being started if the driver is drunk.

Which sounds all fine and dandy, until you read how the things actually work:

Ignition interlocks require a breath test, which takes 30 seconds to complete, to start the car as well as random 'rolling retests' to discourage others from taking the test for you. These rolling retests require the driver to take the test as the car is moving.

I can only imagine my mom or Ellen in one of these things, driving down the road, when suddenly it shoots out a tube and says, "you have 30 seconds to comply!" I'm not sure who would rip it out faster.

I normally expect propeller-headed "gee whiz" propositions like this to come out of the Federal government or the People's Republic of California. It's total lack of understanding of how human beings actually work is an absolutely textbook example of why government should always be seen as the solution of last resort.

It would take exactly five microseconds after this became law for someone to figure out a way to bugger or bypass the things. It might take a minute or two more before someone else cooked up a "Sobe-R-Lung" rebreather gizmo to fit over the end of the tube. There are thousands of Americans (I happen to be good friends with one) who can make a Honda Civic outrun an F-16. Having a gizmo like this stuck in their cars isn't an impediment... it's a challenge.

"Well, if they do tinker with it they'll go to jail! It'll be illegal to tamper with these devices!" Anyone who thinks along these lines obviously has no memory at all of the 1970s. The only reason rednecks aren't still hacking out emissions equipment is because it's too hard to get the car working right once it's gone. I'm sure anyone who thinks car companies should be required to embed this device that deeply into cars meant for a single state will happily pay the extra $10,000 per car it'll probably cost to do it.

California of course proved that if you pass nanny-state legislation like this and then back it up with serious muscle and funding, it can be made to work. Of course, their multi-billion-dollar budget deficit is also instructive. Look, I'm all for getting drunks off the road. But I wonder how many detox programs, educational opportunities, and police officer salaries it's going to cost to make this Rube Goldberg contraption a reality?

When someone comes up with a gizmo that can passively read blood alcohol content through the palms of the hands holding the steering wheel, I'll be interested. Until then I'd appreciate the politicians doing something useful, like fixing the damned roads, making sure schools actually work, and the cops get paid enough to do their jobs.

Politicians doing something useful. My God, I think Joshua really is rubbing off on me...

Posted by scott at February 19, 2004 11:00 AM

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WTF?! Hopefully they have another congressional chamber that can kill this thing...

Posted by: Sherri on February 19, 2004 12:09 PM

I think Joshua really is rubbing off on me...


oh, I guess I should make some sort of comment regarding the article as well. :)

I think this law is such a waste of time and stupid. Fortunately since the active date isn't until Jan. 1 2008 for new and Jan 1 2009 for used, even if it does pass soon there is plenty of time for the people to come to their senses and 'blow' this thing away.

Posted by: Joshua on February 19, 2004 12:21 PM

Uhmm - there is a much easier solution. Bars have parking lots, right? Get rid of their parking lots. If you can't drive there, you can't drive away. Of course, this is an unworkable solution - but there are others. How about making the bar responsible (I know that they are, sort of, now) for any drunk-driving incidents? Force the legislation such that anyone who enters a bar must hand over their keys - and then pass the breathalyzer test in order to get their keys back. If the bartender lets them go, then the bartender is also liable for any damages and/or fines. This doesn't stop people at parties and the like, but it'd be a step in the right direction.

Of course, so would a few executions... Someone gets drunk, drives and kills someone. Take them out of a field and shoot them. Repeat as necessary. After this becomes common practice, drunk driving will cease almost entirely...

Posted by: Ron on February 19, 2004 05:35 PM

Unfortunately, nobody's come up with a solution yet. Remove the bar's parking lots, and people will park in the street. Make bars responsible for drunk drivers, and bars will lose all their business and close down.

The entire problem stems from the fact that people WANT to drink and drive. Short of forced lobotomies, there really isn't anything anyone can do about that, that isn't being done already.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on February 20, 2004 04:14 PM
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