In-Depth: Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), who was dubbed New York state’s “toughest DWI prosecutor” while serving as District Attorney of Nassau County, is a longtime advocate of efforts to combating drunk driving. In the current Congress, Rep. Rice introduced this bill as part of a trio of bills aimed at combating impaired and distracted driving. When she introduced the trio of bills, which also includes the Impaired Driving Child Endangerment Act and the Distracted Driving Education Act of 2019, Rep. Rice said:
“My hope is that with these three bills, we can take a major step toward ending impaired and distracted driving in this country once and for all. Taken together, nearly 15,000 were killed in 2018 because of an impaired or distracted driver – these are deadly and tragic epidemics that have claimed too many lives and destroyed too many families. It’s past time that we take action at the federal level to end this crisis. And the best way to do that is by strengthening our laws and enforcement strategies, leveraging preventative technology and investing in the educational tools that can help change people’s behavior. This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart and I’m going to continue working hard to build support on both sides of the aisle and get these bills passed.”
Rep. Rice concedes that although the cost of installing anti-DWI technology in every vehicle isn’t year clear, it’d likely be incurred by the automaker and passed on to the customer. However, she argues that slight increased costs in exchange for safety are worth it, drawing a parallel to airbags or seatbelts: “But you tell me if people didn’t think it was worth paying a little extra for car to have a seat belts or an air bag in it. These are technologies that save lives.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports this bill. Its executive director, Richard Mallow, says Rep. Rice’s trio of bills “the most important federal legislation that we could ask for.” Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcohol & Drug Dependence, adds that “[s]ubstance use, misuse and abuse and making terrible choices that lead to horrific consequences are putting too many lives in jeopardy and taking too many lives.”
Technocracy News criticizes this bill, arguing that it “would effectively turn 226 million people into suspects”:
“Our politicians are hard at work introducing bills that promise to turn America into a mirror image of China. Rep. Kathleen Rice’s H.R. 3374 bill, otherwise known as the End Drunk Driving Act, would put breathalyzers and ignition interlock devices in every new car. According to the LI Herald, Rice wants to force auto manufacturers to put breathalyzers and ignition interlock devices in new cars by 2029… With close to 280 million cars in the U.S. and over 226 million drivers licenses, nearly every American would be affected by this and other bills. If Rice’s bill is passed it would effectively turn 226 million people into suspects.”
This bill doesn’t have any cosponsors in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill didn’t receive a committee vote and didn’t have any cosponsors.
Of Note: Rep. Rice’s office notes that while the U.S. has made tremendous progress on reducing DWI-related fatalities over the past 30 years, there are still an average of over 10,000 DWI-related fatalities each year. In order to achieve this goal, Rep. Rice’s office contends that “the best way to prevent drunk driving fatalities is to prevent anyone who is over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from operating a vehicle.”
A 2015 study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that requiring alcohol ignition interlock technology in all new cars sold in the U.S. could prevent 85% of all drunk driving fatalities over 15 years, saving over 59,000 lives and preventing 1.25 million drunk driving-related injuries (an 84-89% reduction). The study also found that this technology would save nearly $343 billion over 15 years, and that the cost of the anti-DWI technology could be recovered within the first three years.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / GregorBister)