Manditory car breathalizers - life saver or invasion of privacy?

The motor vehicle is perhaps the most deadly invention in the world. I am not talking emissions or the dangers of "internal combustion, I am talking accidents. Mixing alcohol with driving only increases the possibility for accidental injury or death.

A guy I knew had a few DUI’s and the court installed a little device to his ignition into which he had to blow. The car would only start if it did not register any alcohol.

What if this were standard equipment? What if, in order to start your car you had to prove that you were not under the influence of alcohol?

Certainly there would be the possibility of cheating or defrauding the device. It would not be foolproof. People should be deterred from this by heavy penalties. But how many lives do you think would be saved by keeping a majority of drunk drivers off the road by forcing them to find sober people to drive their car, or having people be deliberate and intentional about designated drivers?

Would civil libertarians decry this as an invasion of privacy? I don’t see how it would be any more invasive than manditory seat belts or helmets for motorcylers.

Am I wrong on this? It seems so obvious, and I can’t imagine why it hasn’t been brought up before.
Would this work?

these breathalyzer that are installed in dui offender’s cars must be blown into every ten minutes or so.

It seems like a much larger hassle than benefit.

I would decry it. Seems like unresaonable search and seizure, but I’ll let one of your real lawyers address that. I’m not in favor of mandatory seatbelts or helmets, but we don’t yet have cars that won’t start w/o the seatbelts buckled. That would be a better analogy.

And what would happen the first time the device malfunctioned (and the car wouldn’t start) when someone was trying to get the hospital?

You don’t oppress the majority in order to deal with the minority.


Assume we could make it so that you only have to blow into it to start it…now what do you think?

Yeah, the first time some blonde woman running from a pack of mutant zombies couldn’t start her car because she’d downed a couple of rum n’ cokes, they’d get a lawsuit big enough to put an end to the breathalyzers.

Amendment IV

**The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. **

I dont think anything will be searched or seized…your car just won’t start if you have been drinking. If you have not been drinking, then you go about your way.

There would be no penalty for failing the test, and it would not be reported…your car jsut would not start.

It would be so easy to have a designated blower that any potential usefulness would be negated.

You mean oppressed like being killed and buried in a mass grave outside of Iraq?

…or being murdered because you are a Cambodian with a bit too much education?

…or being hunted because you are Chinese and a member of Falun Gon?

…or being shot down by a water cannon and attacked by dogs for demonstrating for civil rights?

Yesiree…life is pretty good today of blowing into a straw is considered oppression…

…or if the starter malfunctioned, or the alternator, or a solenoid, or …

A breathalyzer required by the government is a search. If they have no probable cause to impose such a search, it is unreasonable.

Denying me the use of my vehicle based on an unreasonable search is a seizure.

And here I thought you were talking about cars equipped with breathalyzers. Silly me.

Actually I was talking about the plight of the American Indian with my comment.

Do you really think it would be easy to get someone to blow into the device because you are drunk? I ceratainly would not do that for someone.

As I mentioned, there would be a severe penalty for tampering or defrauding the device.

I think it would curtail drunk driving a great deal. Hence, lives would be saved. Its not like seat belts that only help the driver. This is something that would help innocents as well.

None of which are required by the government.

Yes, it would save lives. Yes, it would be an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, since we don’t own (almost all of) the roads, if the government requires all liscened vehicles to have a functiong breath-ignition thingy, then we (the bunch in favor of civil liberties) are pretty much screwed.

In Virginia driving is not a right, it is a priveledge.


In 2002, 17,970 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol, representing 42 percent of the 42,850 people killed in all traffic crashes (up from the 41% killed in 2001), according to preliminary NHTSA data. (NHTSA, 2003)

OK lets change the argument just a little. I we knew a certain percentage would be saved, what percentage would it have to be for you to agree to this measure? How about if 50% or 8,985 lives would be saved? Would you go along if 100% would be saved? That would be 17,970 lives in 2002. Where would you draw the line, or would you?

I concede that some liberties would be stepped on. But we trade liberties for safety all the time (speed limits, blood alcohol levels, traffic signals, gun laws). Where would you set the bar to have this proposal be acceptable?

I believe drunk driving is going out of vogue as something to be outraged about. Now it’s falling asleep at the wheel and using cell phones while driving, at least from what I see in the media.

“If they have no probable cause to impose such a search, it is unreasonable.”

Fear: To play devil advocate against my own argument, isn’t a breathalizer in your car similar to drunk driving check points that police institute? You get stopped w/o any probably cause and must submit to questioning from a policeman. Not that I’m in favor of this, just that it’s not clear that the breathalizer is much differnet, except in magnitude.


Those devices cost money. You’re penalizing people by making them buy them on their car.

On top of that, they are fragile. Like the police breathalyzers these things need to be maintained and synchronized with a good bit of regularity.

They are high maintenance.

I knew a person who had one on his car as a result of a dui, and the damn thing never worked very well. It had to get synched every thirty days or so, and even when synched it would often give him false positive readings.
Be advised that such a device disables one’s vehicle.

I am unwilling to have my vehicle disabled because of a false postive, and be stranded.

That carries its own dangers too, you know?

I am both a responsible driver and a responsible drinker. I don’t do both at the same time.

Yet, at some point it is conceivable that a very serious life threatening emergency may cause me to need to drive after I’ve had two beers. I may have to rush my kid or wife or self to the hostpital.

I have broken no laws, and I do not support your idea to tamper with my machinery in order to make it less reliable and useful and safe for me to use.

You may not inconvenience and endanger me in this fashion unnecessarily in order to target a small minority of people who drive under the influence.