Thursday, December 07, 2006
It seems a bit of Ego Googling has brought some life back to the comments on my post about MADD's plan to embed passive alcohol detection devices in all cars.
I suspect it might be a bit annoying to Mr. Murray that the comments page for that post is the Number 1 hit on Google for the string "MADD Florida Murray."
Posted by Aubrey Turner on 12/07/2006 at 12:13 PM PDT
Monday, November 20, 2006
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the
most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under
omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes
sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment
us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the
approval of their own conscience."
- C.S. Lewis
Offensive beyond words
So I see this morning that the good folks at MADD have announced their latest Utopian idea to prevent drunk driving.
In a bold new effort designed to eradicate one of the nation’s deadliest
crimes, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today launched its national
Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which aims to literally wipe out
drunk driving in the United States.
* Exploration of advanced vehicle technologies through the establishment
of a Blue Ribbon panel of international safety experts to assess the
feasibility of a range of technologies that would prevent drunk driving.
These technologies must be moderately priced, absolutely reliable, set at
the legal BAC limit and unobtrusive to the sober driver
Proving once again that advocacy organizations sometimes go off the deep end in their obsession with a problem, the above means that they want every single vehicle to have an interlock device to prevent it from starting should the driver be "impaired."
The first commenter thinks I misunderstood what the devices would be like, since I used the term "interlock." I fully understand that this is a passive technology. That doesn't change the fact that in engineering terms this device would still be an interlock, which is a device that serves some protective function by disabling the mechanism when certain conditions are observed.
I'm not sure I have words to express my disgust with the idea of being treated like a potential criminal every single time I start my truck! It offends me on a level that’s difficult to express.
Now before I get a lot of hate mail from the MADD folks who will likely end up here eventually from the good offices of Google as part of their astro-turf campaign, I need to say that I absolutely despise drunk drivers. But that doesn’t mean that I'm going to put up with being treated like a potential criminal at every turn and being forced to prove my innocence to go about my daily routine.
I'm actually the last person who would need an interlock. I'm usually the designated driver for my friends when we go somewhere. But MADD would have me treated just the same way as someone who had killed someone by driving drunk and force me to prove my sobriety every time I get in the truck.
Does anyone else see how offensive this is? Am I the only one? Have we become a nation of damn sheep who meekly roll over for whatever "safety" demand that comes forth from whatever advocacy group is the media darling today?
If we're really serious about stopping drunks, we should be concentrating on removing the chronic drunks from the road and making examples of the first-time offenders. Current law in Texas makes drunk driving a Class B misdemeanor with only a 72-hour minimum confinement. A Class B misdemeanor carries a maximum jail term of 180 days and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000.
How about we start getting serious with these jokers? Maybe a mandatory 6 month sentence for first-time offenders (no parole, no early release, etc), followed by interlocks (I don’t mind interlocks for someone who's already shown they can't be trusted). A second offense gets you two years and permanent loss of license. Of course, these drunks don’t seem to mind driving without a license, so maybe a third offense is worth 10 years or something.
My hope is that the threat of real jail time instead of deferred adjudication or other coddling would help a lot. It certainly addresses the problem WITHOUT treating the innocent as criminals until proven otherwise.
The technology problem
Ok... so let's say this technology does get pushed on us whether we want it or not. Just how reliable does it have to be? MADD claims they want it to be "absolutely reliable, [...] and unobtrusive to the sober driver". That would appear to me to require 100% reliability. What do you want to bet that if someone comes up with a 99.5% reliable device that MADD decides that it's just reliable enough? What? You won't take that bet? Smart move since we know how these advocacy groups work.
A 99.5% reliability rate means a 00.5% failure rate. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Well, let's do some hypothetical calculations. I'm going to base it on my own driving habits, but you can substitute your own numbers if you like.
First, let's consider how many times I start my truck per year:
- I generally take one trip per day, every day of the year, which means two starts per day: 365*2 = 730
- I also generally take a second trip at least once per week (grocery runs, etc): 52*2 = 104
So, that comes out to 834 starts per year. At a 0.5% failure rate, this means that I will be stranded by my truck approximately 4.17 times per year.
Doesn't sound so good now, does it? Can I call Glynn Birch (national president of MADD) to come get me each of those 4 times my truck arbitrarily decides not to start each year?
Note: For those that would accuse me of attacking a straw man, I will certainly admit that the 99.5% reliability rating is somewhat arbitrary, but I think the argument is still sound. I work in a technology-based business and I understand the ways in which systems can be flawed. Making a system that is foolproof and that can stand up to use by hundreds of millions of people without any failures is a very tall order.
Now consider that spread across 133.6 million automobiles (2000 number, see link) and the potential for false positives becomes staggering. For the sake of argument, lets boost the reliability to 99.99% and assume that those vehicles are solely used for trips to and from work on week days. Let's further assume that these drivers get two weeks vacation.
This means that each vehicle is driven on one trip per day, five days per week, for 50 weeks per year. There will be two starts per trip (one at the beginning of the day and one when leaving work). So, that's 5 * 50 * 2 = 500 starts per year per vehicle. With 133.6 million vehicles, that comes to 66800000000 starts per year (yes, that's 66.8 billion). At a failure rate of 0.01%, that comes to 6680000 denied starts per year. So people will be arbitrarily stranded by their vehicles 6.68 million times per year.
Still think it's a minor inconvenience and worth the hassle? After all, it's always worth it even if it saves just one life? Right?
Can we all call you for a ride when the system arbitrarily denies us the use of our own property and leaves us stranded?
The friendly camel's nose
So what's the big deal, some will say? Don't you want to stop drunk driving? It's for your own good. Relax and go with the flow…
The question becomes, "Where does it stop?" Of course the current advocates of this sort of thing will tell you that you’re being silly and paranoid. But whenever you propose something like this, it's best to stop and think for a minute about whether you want to live in a world where this type kind of power is given to your worst enemy.
So let's say we get nationalized health care. Will your car measure you against your ideal weight and decide you should walk today? Is you job nearby and would the busy-body urban planners decide you should walk there?
Let's imagine that to combat drive-bys that your car won't start if it detects gunpowder or a firearm? How does a law-abiding citizen go to and from the range? What if you got powder residue on your shoes yesterday during a legal trip to the range? (Meanwhile the gang-bangers are driving their illegally modified cars to and from their drive-bys...) Do you have to call the cops to get an override code so you can go to work? (Prepare to assume the position, as you get treated to a felony stop because you called and mentioned guns and cars.) What about legal concealed carry? (Of course if we get this nannified, I guess concealed carry would be right out.)
It doesn't hurt to consider these things now. The original proponents of Social Security said that the SSN would never be used for an identifier and that such objections were ill-founded. I've lost track of the number of places that now demand it or they won't do business with you.
Up until now I've regarded MADD as a bit obsessive, but ultimately not worthy of much further thought. At first I was even with them, since I hate drunk drivers. But this has gone too far. If they pursue making this technology mandatory I will make it my mission to vote against any politician that sides with them. I will boycott any business that supports them. Whatever it takes to try to stem the tide of statist, intrusive technology into every facet of our lives.
A slow wave of stupidity
"I have a very bad feeling about this."
- Luke Skywalker
Unfortunately, MADD's announcement that this is a 10-year project is actually a good bit of strategy on their part. It allows the idea to slowly infiltrate the population. Combined with a regular drumbeat from the media who will just run MADD press releases as news, people's defenses will slowly be eroded. Ultimately, those of us who find it offensive to be treated as criminals until proven innocent may be ground under the swell of popular opinion. I really do fear that we've become a nation of sheep who will accept any level of intrusion for that illusive little bit of extra safety. It's hard to maintain opposition over a long term against those who paint you as hating "the children" and being in favor of getting people killed because you won't support their pet program. Against all that, liberty is a hard sell.
At times like this I really fear for our Republic. Forget the Islamofascists. We’re going to nanny ourselves to death. We’ll go out not with a bang, but with a soft baby-like whimper.
Coda: Private vs Public actors (added after original post)
One thing that I probably failed to elicuidate in the above is that my concern reflects any legal requirement to include these "passive" devices in vehicles. If it were strictly a private initiative, such that one could purchase the device as an option and receive an insurance discount, I would be less bothered (although I would still be concerned that it's the camel's nose under the tent in furtherance of legal requirements). Given MADD's history, I am not sanguine that it would content itself with a market-driven solution, however.
Update: Some additional reaction to this technology proposal...
Questions to ask MADD before every car has a Breathalyzer
Drunk Until Proven Sober
Posted by Aubrey Turner on 11/20/2006 at 07:56 AM PDT