Opinion
A man in Minnesota demonstrates an ignition cutoff system in this January file photo. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness) A man in Minnesota demonstrates an ignition cutoff system in this January file photo. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness)  

FoodPolitik: Big Brother in your back seat

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Rick Berman
Executive Director, Center for Union Facts
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      Rick Berman

      Rick Berman is the President of Berman and Company, a Washington, D.C.–based public affairs firm specializing in research, communications, and creative advertising.
      Berman has founded several leading non-profit organizations which are known for their fact-based research and their aggressive communications campaigns.
      A long-time consumer advocate, Rick Berman champions individual responsibility and common sense policy. He believes that democracies require an informed public from all sides.
      Berman and Company has received dozens of national awards for its creativity and cutting edge work. In the past two years alone Berman and Company has earned over 30 awards for its work in television, print, and radio advertisements and crisis communications.
      Rick Berman has appeared on all major television networks and has organized national coalitions on a variety of issues.

Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report?” It was the one where the “Precrime” police unit armed with new technology arrested you before you committed a future crime they could detect.

Fast forward to today’s self appointed traffic cops. In their ideal future, any automobile you’ll purchase will have an in-car alcohol detector to stop you from “drinking and driving” before you get the opportunity. (Despite drunken driving fatalities being at an all time low, i.e., one per every 274,244,948 miles driven, some activists can’t rest until they can get to every last drop).

To be clear, I’m not talking about or objecting to attempts to stop drunk driving. But in activists’ future world, your car won’t start even if you were drinking below the current level for arrest. Physiological factors and liability concerns dictate that these detection devices will be set well below the current legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) — possibly as low as .02 or .03.

Today’s nanny-state advocates are pressing Congress to spend another $60 million of your money for additional research into this technology, to stop you from having a glass of wine with dinner before you get behind the wheel.

Debt crisis? What debt crisis?

Known as DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detector System for Safety), the technology uses a variety of passive air sampling and touch sensors to determine drivers’ BAC through their skin and breath.

Proponents of the technology suggest that these devices stop drunks from driving. They also incredulously deny that the installation of such devices in cars will be mandatory.

Can you imagine that habitual drunk drivers will voluntarily opt to have these devices installed when they order a new car?  Even someone who just arrived in Washington can figure out how this one ends.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is on record stating that “the goal over time is to equip all passenger vehicles in the United States with the technology.” Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s immediate past president said that “a long-term goal [is] to make alcohol interlocks a standard safety feature that is installed in all new vehicles.” And the DADSS developers themselves said that “ultimately we would like them on all vehicles.”

Am I missing something here?

There are plenty of reasons why these devices must be calibrated well below the legal limit. It can take a couple of hours for a person to reach peak BAC after he stops drinking. (Your BAC level could start below the .08 legal threshold before rising to levels beyond the legal limit while in transit.)

If that driver were to then get into an automobile accident, the legal implications would be disastrous. DADSS manufacturers and car companies could both be held legally liable in civil cases, at the very least. As a result, such systems will have to be calibrated well below the legal limit — as low as .02, the BAC level most consumers reach after a single drink.