Every driver knows that it’s illegal to drive after consuming significant amounts of alcohol. There are public awareness campaigns on most mainstream media platforms related to the consequences of impaired driving, and every driver’s education course includes instructions on the law and safety concerns related to driving after drinking.
Those who end up arrested for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense in Minnesota will often lose their license in addition to paying fines and possibly spending some time in jail. The state also sometimes mandates that people install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) in their vehicles. These breath test units prevent someone with a history of impaired driving from starting their vehicles if there is detectable alcohol on their breath.
Recently, however, the National Transportation Safety Board took this concept one step further in announcing its desire to seek the mandated inclusion of alcohol testing systems in all new vehicles. If this plan moves forward, within just a few years every new vehicle purchased in the United States may have an integrated chemical testing system. Is it reasonable to demand chemical testing from all drivers?
Testing all drivers is an unfair burden
There are many reasons why the government mandating that those who have never gotten convicted of a crime consistently performed chemical breath tests is problematic, to say the least. There are many drivers for whom routine breath testing could be a problem, including those who have medical conditions like diabetes or those who follow certain diets. A false positive on a test might mean that someone can’t get their vehicle to start so that they can get to work on time.
The possible negative impact of the testing systems on innocent people is, on its own, a compelling argument against this policy. Chemical breath testing can also be expensive. Anyone who has a prior DWI on their record and who has had to install an IID in their vehicle as part of regaining driving privileges can tell you that it is not cheap to install or maintain such devices.
Although there may not be an installation fee if the vehicle comes from the manufacturer with a built-in system, there would still be maintenance costs. Chemical testing systems require frequent calibration if they are to produce accurate results, and such calibration requires regular appointments.
Not only will the appointments themselves be a frequent inconvenience for all drivers, but they would be an additional source of expense that could devastate members of the working class who need independent transportation and can barely afford insurance as it is.
Although the intent to deter criminal activity and keep the public safer is to some degree admirable, a federal agency suggesting that they inconvenience everyone and add hundreds of dollars to their annual transportation budgets is unrealistic and unfair. Tracking proposed changes to policy and law can help those who want to avoid or fight back against DWI charges in Minnesota.