HAS MADD GONE A BIT MAD?
For the last few years, Interlocks – the alcohol detection devices installed in cars – have been used mainly for repeat drunk driving offenders. However, if Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has its way, all cars in the US will soon have alcohol detection devices in them. However, The American Beverage Institute (ABI) trade association had something to say about that when it criticized MADD’s “Report to the Nation” which advocates them. According to ABI, MADD previously stated the technology, which is being developed by researchers funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and automakers, would be voluntary. In the past year, however, both MADD and NHTSA have indicated that the ultimate goal is to make these devices installed as standard equipment. In MADD’s “Report to the Nation” the organization states: “Tomorrow’s cars will protect each of us, automatically determining whether or not the driver is at or above the illegal limit of .O8 blood alcohol content and failing to operate if the driver is impaired.” MADD President Jan Withers said the technology could become as standard as an airbag. Proponents claim that the devices would only prevent drivers from driving with a blood alcohol concentration above the current legal limit of .O8. However, due to legal, liability and logistical concerns, they would have to be set below the legal limit – most likely around .O3 to .O4. “Putting alcohol detectors in all cars would effectively eliminate many Americans’ choice to have a wine with dinner, beer at a ball game or a champagne toast at a wedding and drive home, because the devices will be set well below the legal limit,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “We all want to increase traffic safety, but to do this we should focus on policies that target drunk drivers, not all Americans.” Longwell continued, “Even the government promised reliability standard of 99.99966% accuracy would still mean over 4OOO misreadings per day.” There’s no doubt that a need for the technology exists, particularly for repeat offenders. But putting them into every single car makes MADD and the NHTSA seem a bit like Big Brother.