America has always had a fairly tolerant attitude toward drunk driving. Back when I first started driving (way last century!) cops would escort drivers who had too much to drink back to their homes and stand guard outside to make sure they didn’t try to get back in the car. Down in Texas, drivers prefer pickup trucks for long drives because you can throw your empty beer cans in the back as you drive along. Better than littering the roadside with them, right?
I don’t set myself up as any paragon of virtue, either. There have been many times when I was in no condition to be behind the wheel but did so anyway. Hey, everybody did it. Just like everybody used to smoke…….
But times change and attitudes change along with them. Mothers Against Drunk Driving started it all 30 years ago and their efforts have paid off. Today, the police no longer tolerate drunks behind the wheel. Getting caught can lead to big fines, legal fees and perhaps confiscation of your vehicle. But still, some people drive while intoxicated.
The National Transportation Safety Board says that in 2011 there were almost 10,000 alcohol related highway deaths in America. That’s a pretty big number. The NTSB is suggesting that all cars come equipped with sensors that would disable the car if a person who had been drinking gets behind the wheel.
Right now, 17 states require a Breathalyzer ignition interlock be fitted to cars belonging to those convicted of drunk driving. Before the engine will start, the driver has to blow into a tube. If the machine detects a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, itdisables the ignition so the car won’t start
The NTSB proposal would take the technology one step further. Passive breath and touch monitors would be activated every time the driver gets into the car. These electronic guardians would disable the car if alcohol above a certain limit is detected.
Critics claim this smacks of Big Brother. And they are right. They also say the systems could react to passengers who might be intoxicated even if the driver is not. Surely, some fine tuning of the system will be required. Perhaps the sensors could be incorporated into the keyless entry devices that all cars come with today?
Usually, I am philosophically opposed to electronic systems that want to do our driving for us. I think such things tend to make us less aware while driving and that’s not good. But I could get behind this idea. It’s not about some drunk hurting himself. It’s more about someone veering into my lane and injuring me. The systems to implement the NTSB proposal are not yet available, but moving toward the goal of having no drunk drivers on the roads seems like a smart thing for society. What do you think?