A nation in fear is a nation controlled. The idea that regular folk should be made to feel like criminals for engaging in legal acts is one rooted in the tyranny and the terror seen in East Germany before the Berlin Wall was torn down. And yet this very concept is making a comeback through the able assistance of Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY). She has launched legislation that will ultimately require every driver in the United States to undergo a biological test before getting behind the wheel.
(H.R. 3374) was initiated in July 2017, but went largely ignored by politicians and the media – until now. On May 30, Rice reintroduced the End Drunk Driving Act in a package with two other pieces of legislation. The basic premise is as sweeping as it is autocratic. She proposes that within ten years of the bill becoming law, no vehicle will be able to function before the driver takes, and passes, a built-in breathalyzer test. The law directs “the Department of Transportation to issue a final rule prescribing or amending a federal motor vehicle safety standard that would prevent operation of a motor vehicle when the operator is under the influence of alcohol.” It continues:
“Such standard shall:
- prevent the operation of the motor vehicle if the operator’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit; and
- require the technology to be reliable and accurate, set at the legal limit, unobtrusive and fast, tamper-proof/circumvention-resistant, functionary in extreme environments, and easily maintained.”
While this may initially seem like a sensible method of deterring drunk driving, the fact that all drivers would essentially be forced to prove themselves innocent before being allowed to start their cars is a stark abuse of power. Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza had this to say regarding the legislation:
“Requiring preclearance of alcohol “intoxication” before operating a motor vehicle is an insidious invasion in the right to travel. That Ms. Rice’s legislation imposes on that right from an oblique angle, by requiring car makers to do her dirty work, is no comfort. This bill picks taxpayers’ pockets to subsidize their own electronic hall monitors, and both provisions run counter to the Constitution, and liberty.”
The technological “solutions” being proposed would involve breath testing every time a driver chooses to start a car – each time he or she wants to visit the grocery store or take the kids to school. What will happen to this information, once gathered?
As with other “interlock” devices currently used throughout the U.S., drivers may be required to redo their tests at certain intervals to ensure they are not grabbing a quick beer whilst on the road. How often would they have to repeat the test? What if there is no safe place to stop?
The End Drink Driving Act seeks to fundamentally reform the way American citizens live their lives. Rice touts it as promoting “life-saving technology,” similar to the introduction of seat belts and airbags, but those pieces of safety equipment do not require an infringement of liberty to operate.
For those who would rather not face a medical test every time they leave the house, this bill would effectively cut off access to independent transportation. Yet the ramifications of this ill-thought out and tyrannical legislation go much further. As often happens with bills that are antithetical to freedom, a number of unintended consequences and problems would certainly arise from the passing of this act.
The American Car Industry
The bill would require all new vehicles to be fitted with an interlock device that needs to be operated in order to start the vehicle. Is this only to be applied to the U.S. car industry, or would import vehicles also need to feature these intrusive upgrades?
If not, then those who do not wish to have their DNA cataloged on a daily basis may opt for a foreign import – at the expense of U.S. manufacturing. If foreign vehicles were subject to the requirements, it follows that, until international companies find it profitable to fit their cars with such equipment, their activity in the U.S. market will decline.
While this may be great news for the second-hand car industry, climate change fears are driving emissions standards around the world to favor newer, energy-efficient vehicles. Will future taxes on carbon emissions penalize those who opt for a used car?
Much like purchasing real estate, the matter all comes down to location. While there are some across-the-board laws regarding alcohol and motor vehicles, the rules that govern acceptable limits are different wherever you go. Will the End Drink Driving Act turn out to be just another federal attempt to infringe on states’ decision-making rights?
Will this new technology be aligned to various state laws from the outset? What happens if you work in another state, go on vacation, or buy a car from somewhere else? If you happen to be driving from Nevada to Utah, you may be under the legal blood alcohol content standard when you start, but you could fall afoul of the law upon your arrival – without any drinking on the way. If the technology is not tied into a tracking GPS, it just won’t work – leading to one more liberty revoked: the right to keep your location private.
The Ingenious Drinkers
To try and legislate behavior in such a way is almost doomed to failure. Hard drinkers are nothing if not inventive, whether in their lies or their stashing of booze. What’s to stop someone starting their car, loading up the drinks in the front passenger seat and partying in the back or front? In more rural areas, how many drinkers may leave the engine running while they run inside for a beer or two? How’s that helping the environment?
No Escape, No Emergency
The problem with technology-driven approaches to law enforcement is that they remove the use of human intelligence when deciding how laws should be applied. There will always be circumstances that fall outside a rule or a law. They may well be extreme cases, but extreme cases often call for extreme measures. Perhaps the designated driver has a heart attack in the middle of nowhere, and someone else must get them to a hospital. What about someone attempting to escape from a sudden danger or threat? When human intelligence is removed from the equation, everything becomes black and white, with no exceptional circumstances allowed.
Finally, with the almost inevitable rise of self-drive cars, is this legislation a 20th Century solution? As LN’s Scott Cosenza points out, “The 100 million plus transfer of wealth from the people to the car companies authorized by this law will do nothing to improve safety. Driverless cars are coming, and soon, and they will reduce DUI deaths to zero in short order.”
This new bill is not only an affront to the individual liberty of every single American; it is poorly designed, badly thought out, and will have vast unintended consequences the likes of which we can only guess. It seeks to remove personal responsibility in favor of nannying. All such pet projects run the risk of becoming tyranny; it is only when the state stops treating its citizens as guilty children that true liberty can prevail.
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