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Thread: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?


    "Pre-emptive war" got us into a real mess in Iraq. So maybe we ought to think twice before adopting similar measures when it comes to traffic law. Specifically, when it comes to an idea floated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to require that all new cars be fitted with an ignition interlock that can detect alcohol in the driver's system - and shut the car down if it does.

    Several large automakers (including GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda) also support the idea - and are working on ways to get these things into new cars - maybe within the next two or three years.

    Could be sooner.

    Sounds ok in principle - sort of like the idea of liberating Iraq. The devil's in the details, though.

    The technology itself is pretty straightforward. Key fobs are being developed that will be capable of detecting blood-alcohol concentrations either through contact with a person's skin or by sampling his breath. These are basically miniaturized, higher-tech versions of the interlocks some states already require that convicted DWI offenders have installed in their vehicles as a condition of being permitted to retain their driver's license.

    So what's the problem? After all, we don't want drunks driving anymore than we want a beret-wearing strong man ruling Iraq. Right? Well, here's the rub: These little gems may impose de facto Prohibition by making it impossible to drive home if you've consumed even very small amounts of alcohol. Not enough to render you "impaired" (let alone "drunk") as far as the law is concerned. Just enough to trigger the interlock.

    The legal threshold defining "drunk" driving is already quite low. In all 50 states, you are over the line when your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaches .08. This is down considerably from the previous threshold, which was .10 BAC or higher. And you can be arrested for "impaired" driving with a .06 BAC in most states. In 22 states, in fact, you are considered "presumed to be intoxicated" with a measured BAC of .05 or below.

    Now here's where the interlocks get tricky. They are not perfectly accurate and must be set within their margin of error. That margin of error is a "swing" of .02 percent BAC. And that means you might be unable to drive home your 2009 model car or truck after having had as little to drink as a single glass of wine over dinner - since that's all it takes to bring many people within range, BAC-wise, of the transistorized Alcohol Nanny.

    Megan McDonald of the American Beverage Institute writes: "With interlocks in place, the debate over BAC limits would be moot. Technology - not democracy - would decide." Nor the law, for that matter - since the much-lower threshold of the interlocks would effectively trump the higher legal thresholds defining DWI and DUI.

    MADD's CEO Chuck Hurley calls the interlocks a "vaccine on the car" - but the question on the table is whether we want to support outlawing any drinking at all before driving - vs. drunk driving. Everyone supports the latter. But the former is unsupportable.

    Chuck Hurley and other zealots want to impose their neo-Prohibitionist agenda on America by equating (set italic) any (end italic) drinking and driving with drunk driving. But that's just nonsense. It's of a piece with Virginia's new "civil remedial fines" that crucify drivers with thousand-dollar fines for simple speeding. Arguably, it's even worse since (for the moment) Virginia's not fining people $1,000 for jaywalking. But what Hurley wants is the equivalent of that, since the interlocks he supports would treat the driver who enjoyed a glass of wine over dinner and the lush who slurped down a fifth of cheap gin the same. A little to drink - or a lot - you're a "dangerous drunk" and must be kept off the roads.

    The problem with drinking and driving, however, is (and has always been) the relative handful of louts who get into a car with BAC levels well above .08 - not the "social drinker" with a BAC half that high who rolls through a "sobriety checkpoint."

    Hurley and others should keep their focus on the "real killers" - drivers with BAC levels above .08 (who also tend to be the ones who have multiple DWI offenses on their rap sheets, by the way) instead of demanding that anyone who has had (set italic) anything (end italic) alcoholic to drink before driving be considered a threat to public safety.

    END


  2. #2
    mrblanche
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    We had a fatality in the DFW area a couple of months ago when a drunk driver, driving a car with a breathalyzer interlock in place, hit a car full of teenagers.

  3. #3
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    So the trick, then, is to get in, start your car, THEN start drinking heavily.

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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    So the trick, then, is to get in, start your car, THEN start drinking heavily.
    Or get the car started by someone else - probably a living to be made by hanging around bars at closing time and starting cars for people.

    "Valet starting" could be the job title.

  5. #5
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Or just always go to bars that have valet parking.

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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Or just always go to bars that have valet parking.
    But ... but ... places with valet parking look at you funny when you order a shot and a beer.


  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    We had a fatality in the DFW area a couple of months ago when a drunk driver, driving a car with a breathalyzer interlock in place, hit a car full of teenagers.
    Yep; which shows that just about any technology can be evaded...

  8. #8
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Or they get a remote-start system installed by someone.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    Or they get a remote-start system installed by someone.

    Chip H.
    Genius! But the valet starters union will get you for that.

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Or just always go to bars that have valet parking.
    Or just skip the new car altogether!

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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Specifically, when it comes to an idea floated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to require that all new cars be fitted with an ignition interlock that can detect alcohol in the driver's system - and shut the car down if it does.
    Seesh. What a short memory society has... :

    Don't tell me everybody here is too young to remember seat belt/ignition interlocks -- has everybody forgotten those already? :-\

    That was an idiot-simple idea that didn't depend on vapor analysis or fume detection or any such sort of wizardry. Just a simple couple of simple mechanical switches to detect the driver's posterior in the seat and to determine if the seat belt was securely latched. And it STILL wouldn't work reliably. If the car wouldn't start even WITH your seatbelt on, you had to raise the hood and press an override button to start the car -- and it always happened in crappy weather when you were nicely dressed for a social occasion. > >

    May the proponents of this idea be forever cursed to drive the 1974 Olds Cutlass I once owned... > > >

  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Specifically, when it comes to an idea floated by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to require that all new cars be fitted with an ignition interlock that can detect alcohol in the driver's system - and shut the car down if it does.
    Seesh. What a short memory society has... :

    Don't tell me everybody here is too young to remember seat belt/ignition interlocks -- has everybody forgotten those already? :-\

    That was an idiot-simple idea that didn't depend on vapor analysis or fume detection or any such sort of wizardry. Just a simple couple of simple mechanical switches to detect the driver's posterior in the seat and to determine if the seat belt was securely latched. And it STILL wouldn't work reliably. If the car wouldn't start even WITH your seatbelt on, you had to raise the hood and press an override button to start the car -- and it always happened in crappy weather when you were nicely dressed for a social occasion. > >

    May the proponents of this idea be forever cursed to drive the 1974 Olds Cutlass I once owned... > > >
    I have dim memories of those seat belt buzzers... and I "second" your sentence/recommendation -only I'd amend it to '77 Chrysler Cordoba with "rich, Corinthian leather"!

  13. #13
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I have dim memories of those seat belt buzzers... and I "second" your sentence/recommendation -only I'd amend it to '77 Chrysler Cordoba with "rich, Corinthian leather"!
    Oh, it was BETTER than just a buzzer...about 50% of the time the $%&* car would act like somebody had stolen the battery! You'd carefully latch your seatbelt, insert the key, and then -- NOTHING. That's when you had to get out and raise the hood, find the override button, push it, and then HOPE it'd start on that try. :

    Popular outcry lead to reversal of the requirement within a few months. You still see the occasional car with the interlock switch on the driver's side under the hood -- most people don't know what they are.

  14. #14
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I have dim memories of those seat belt buzzers... and I "second" your sentence/recommendation -only I'd amend it to '77 Chrysler Cordoba with "rich, Corinthian leather"!
    Oh, it was BETTER than just a buzzer...about 50% of the time the $%&* car would act like somebody had stolen the battery! You'd carefully latch your seatbelt, insert the key, and then -- NOTHING. That's when you had to get out and raise the hood, find the override button, push it, and then HOPE it'd start on that try. :

    Popular outcry lead to reversal of the requirement within a few months. You still see the occasional car with the interlock switch on the driver's side under the hood -- most people don't know what they are.
    My '75 Fiat had one of those, but it was already disabled when I got the car in 1977.

  15. #15
    mrblanche
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Same for my '75 Omega. The wiring was all there, but disconnected.

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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick

    Seesh. What a short memory society has... :

    Don't tell me everybody here is too young to remember seat belt/ignition interlocks -- has everybody forgotten those already? :-\

    Maybe society but we OFs still remember.

    The interlocks were installed in early 74 (delivered in 73) models and affected the front pax seat as well tha that of the driver. On my 74 Dodge Dart it was a simple matter of disconnecting a plug under the seat and all was well.

    That car was a POS but to give it credit, the thing did about 100k in NYC commuting.

  17. #17
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    I'm glad you remember 1973-1974.

    M was saying today that she thinks she has early-stage alzheimers [sp?] ... and it was hot and reached 19C today, a bit much for an Orkadian gal, and is isn't even Summer.

    Back in 1973 we in NZ took absolutely no notice of the US, since you were getting out of Nam [slowly] and SALT 1 was partly successful. And production Nortons beat everyone including the Japanese bikes, [after fitting bronze bushes in the 'isolastic' frame and soft tires] and editors wanted to pay me big money for my photos.

    While you commuted in that Dodge Dart? I walked or drove a $300 Austin A55 Canbridge or rode my Thruxton-spec Triumph Daytona of a type which in 1973 averaged 99.1 mph around 3 laps of the Isle of Man.

    I left the newspaper company when the senior journalist got pregnant, maybe on her father's farm that sunny summer afternoon, well, that's another story
    I actually respected the editor and didn't have the guts to face him after taking some long AWOL rides, and then became a professional diesel and electric bus-driver, which was the first time I ever looked forward to work, sometimes..

    Wellington was covered with hills and 600V DC twin overhead wires for the buses. They were silent and good, and AFAIK still the main transport system for the city.

    And you were driving a Dodge Dart, poor lad...


  18. #18
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    Same for my '75 Omega. The wiring was all there, but disconnected.
    As much time as I spent under the hood, I cannot remember if my '74 Fiat had the button. I only had that car for 12 years...

  19. #19
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg
    I'm glad you remember 1973-1974.

    And you were driving a Dodge Dart, poor lad...

    Poor lad is right! The only things wrong were the early emission controls and sloppy assembly of the HVAC controls. The 50+ mile round trip to NYC would have ruined any car but the d'd thing held up. Dealer service was so bad as to be unbelievable - I had no time to fight with the people, either.

    The surprising thing is that it was more reliable than my 1973 Olds 98 which was a pretty POS.

  20. #20
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Make in-car Breathalyzers Mandatory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick
    Don't tell me everybody here is too young to remember seat belt/ignition interlocks -- has everybody forgotten those already?

    That was an idiot-simple idea that didn't depend on vapor analysis or fume detection or any such sort of wizardry. Just a simple couple of simple mechanical switches to detect the driver's posterior in the seat and to determine if the seat belt was securely latched. And it STILL wouldn't work reliably. If the car wouldn't start even WITH your seatbelt on, you had to raise the hood and press an override button to start the car -- and it always happened in crappy weather when you were nicely dressed for a social occasion.

    May the proponents of this idea be forever cursed to drive the 1974 Olds Cutlass I once owned...
    Ten minutes of wiring changes, and my 74 Gran Torino stopped doing that on the driver's seat. I left the passenger seat active, as I sometimes had a passenger who wouldn't want to use the belt.

    But you're right - it was a very stupid idea.


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