In the interest of transparency, I want to say first off that I am experimenting with a pay for posting service called TheNewsRoom. TheNewsRoom is a website that pays bloggers to post news stories on their blogs. Supposedly each time a person views the video, news story or image, you (the blogger) gets a cut of the profits.
Now I’m not going to go insane and start spamming my own website with crap. If I wanted to do that, I would have joined Payperpost or Review Me or another service that pays bloggers to stuff their websites with craptastic spam. The difference with TheNewsRoom is that it is news and stuff that I would post and comment on anyway so why not make a dollar or two to help with hosting fees.
Anyway, on with the post…
So this news article is talking about getting breathalyser devices installed into cars that will lock the ignition if the driver of the vehicle if the blood alcohol level is over a certain limit. I’ve noticed that I have a habit of denigrating noble causes so in the interest of keeping up the tradition, I’m going to frown a little bit at this initiative.
Drunk driving is an issue that needs to be dealt with. It is a one hundred percent preventable crime which only takes a little bit of common sense and responsibility on the part of the driver to keep from becoming a statistic. Last year about 40 percent of all traffic fatalities were alcohol related.
I think installing breathalysers in cars is a fantastic idea except for a couple of problems:
1. Is the current technology good enough?
According to Wikipedia’s entry on Breathalyzers, these tests only measure a person’s Blood Alcohol Content and not their level of intoxication. It is generally assumed that people with a Blood Alcohol Content (or BAC) of a certain level, .8% in the US, means that a person is drunk. In fact, actual intoxication depends on a number of additional factors such as the person’s sex, body composition (height, weight) and experience with alcohol. It is a known fact that a person who drink a lot builds up a tolerance for alcohol and therefore could drink a lot more then say someone who only sips champagne on New Year’s Eve.
So because the machine says a person is alright to drive/impaired strictly based on their BAC could potentially be inaccurate. This is of some concern because a machine could unlock the ignition for someone who is under the limit yet really are too intoxicated to drive.
2. How do we overcome user error?
Unbelievably, not everyone is technologically savvy. Some people, for the love of all that is scientific, still do not know how to program the time into their DVD players and thus have doomed themselves to a continuous flashing reminder of their own incompetence.
Police officers are specially trained in how to use these breathalyser machines. And while you can use technology to automate a lot of the processing, especially with it being installed in a car, the person still has to interact with it and if there is a way to mess up the results, rest assured someone will find it.
3. How do we overcome user manipulation?
This, by far, is the most pressing question. As far as I’ve seen, breathalyser tests do not take DNA samples to make sure that the person blowing into the device is the person actually doing the driving. So what, besides a sense of social duty, is to stop a sober person from blowing into the machine for the offender?
It can, and I’m sure does, happen. As noted in a previous post, there are people out there with some mental deficiencies and are quite capable of bullying, manipulating or otherwise getting another person to do something unethical for them.
I think that if we can overcome these issues, then installing a breathalyser in every car could be a great way of reducing and even eliminating the problem of drunk driving. Now if we can get a Fashionalyzer installed in mirrors that will tell men with beer bellies that wearing that speedo in public is not a good idea, then we will truly have Utopia.