Maker of Ignition Interlock Devices: Public Safety Demands a Law Requiring Ignition Interlock DevicesMonday, July 11th, 2011
Shocking, isn’t it?
But good on the Washington Times for exposing the money grab behind the “public safety” campaign to mandate the devices for first-time DUI offenders.
A bill that would withhold up to 5 percent of each state’s highway funding unless that state requires such as device in the cars of all convicted drunken drivers was introduced in the Senate in February by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, and last month in the House by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat.
For the past 18 months, lobbyists for “ignition interlocks,” as they are called, have jockeyed to inject a provision into the crevices of the transportation reauthorization bill, a tentative outline of which was released Friday by Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican.
The hospitality industry says a mandate could pave the way for a different type of sensor, other than a Breathalyzer, to be made standard in all cars within five years, in line with a separate House proposal introduced last month that would allocate $60 million over that period to develop the technology. Those devices would be set to detect blood alcohol content near the legal limit, likely through skin contact with the steering wheel.
The Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers hired lobbyist David Kelly, a former chief of staff and acting administrator at the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Lautenberg’s former chief of staff, Tim Yehl, now lobbies for Ignition Interlock Systems of Iowa . . .
The manufacturers are taking a page from a well-worn playbook: lobbying campaigns in which private companies advocate for government requirements that would make them rich by aligning with activist forces who provide moral pronouncements that are appealing to politicians and – once on the table – the public . . .
“The overwhelming majority of entities that want to regulate in some way are composed of Baptists and bootleggers,” said Peter Van Doren, editor of the quarterly journal Regulation, referring to the two groups that pressed for Prohibition 90 years ago: religious zealots who viewed alcohol as immoral and the gangsters who profited from its illegal status.
Manufacturers are “probably sincere and also making an alliance with Mothers Against Drunk Driving – the mothers would be the Baptists,” he said. “They’re going to them and saying if you mandate this thing, your version of the world will come along, and it just so happens we’ll get rich – but of course they don’t say that part.”
I’m fine with mandating these devices for repeat offenders. But first-time offenders is too much, especially for someone barely above the too-low legal limit. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to worry about the possibility that this campaign will expand to demand the devices in all new cars.
I’d also add here that there may indeed be good public safety arguments for this policy. I just don’t think the anti-alcohol fanatics can be trusted when they try to make them. A few years ago, for example, I wrote about a MADD report that “evaluated” DWI fatality data in all 50 states. Somehow, MADD’s objective analysis determined that every state was in urgent need of an ignition interlock law, regardless of whether the state’s DWI stats were trending up, trending down, or unchanged.