The Alcohol Detector

Alcohol dectection system for automobiles

Here’s a bizarre story from the Annals of the Neo-Prohibition Movement:

The U.S. Senate recently held a field hearing in New Mexico on the feasibility of installing an alcohol detector in new vehicles. The device would assess the blood alcohol level of the prospective driver, and prevent the car from starting if that level were too high.

If you think about this for a few seconds, it makes very little sense. If the detector is offered as an option, who’s going to buy it? Surely not people who drive drunk—they’re likely to take the money and invest in Jack Daniels, rather than a pricey addition to their new car. If the detector becomes mandatory, it makes less sense. 40% of the American public doesn’t drink alcohol, and most of those who do consume it responsibly.

What’s next? Shall we install an electronic chip in the ear of every citizen, designed to deliver an electric shock if the person contemplates drinking alcohol?

Not surprisingly, the alcohol detector was endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which testified at the hearing. MADD is a non-profit group that receives millions of dollars in contributions from GM, Nissan and Daimler Chrysler (you may connect the dots for yourself). They spend over 50% of their revenue on salaries and benefits for employees; of the remaining amount, most is invested into telemarketing efforts to raise more money. MADD claims that 83% of each dollar received is spent on charitable outreach; according to a study by the Toronto Star, the figure is actually 19%. MADD “has taken a national tragedy and turned it into a fundraising machine,” said John Bates, founder of MADD Canada.

The manufacture and sale of alcohol is an enormous business in this country. So is charity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get past the self-interest of both groups and do something about the problem of drunk driving? On that day, the world would truly be a better place.

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