MADD Fights For DADDS Technology Study In Senate Transportation Bill

In a great article in Politico, Kathryn Wolfe describes the fight brewing between MADD and the opponents of their latest prohibition technology – DADDS.  MADD has been working with major insurance companies and automobile manufacturers to get a passive alcohol system (called DADDS) as mandated equipment in every automobile in the world.  In 2008, at MADD’s urging, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety entered into a $10 million agreement with the federal government to develop such a technology. This system would  search every driver (not just convicted DUI offenders) every single time they started their car.  This year, MADD’s power as one of the nation’s leading lobbying groups resulted in a provision in the Senate transportation bill to ““more widespread deployment of in-vehicle technology” that would prevent drunken driving.  The research will be carried out by the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, a collaboration between NHTSA and the automobile industry.

The article quotes Sarah Longwell, a spokesman for the American Beverage Institute, “They’re developing it for all cars as original equipment. The bill doesn’t mandate anything, but ultimately that’s what they want,” Longwell said.  Politicians who sponsor the bill are sidestepping MADD’s ultimate goal of mandates.  Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), one of the authors of standalone legislation similar to the research provision in the Senate’s bill, dismissed the idea that the provision mandates anything at all.  “I think some of the opponents of this are trying to suggest that merely by doing the research, you’re then going to automatically move into a mandated sort of standardized situation and that’s not the case,” Sarbanes said. “The research would be the basis for determining what next steps you should take and how you balance competing concerns. There’s exactly no downside to doing this research when you look at the potential lives it could save.”

Another MADD agenda item in the Senate bill is the requirement that all first-time DUI offenders must use an ignition interlock device in order to get the car to start.  MADD is seeking to implement this mandate in the same way it coerced the states’ into adoption of a .08 alcohol standard, which is to tie the ignition interlock to receiving highway funds.  The language stipulates that if states want about 5 percent of their regularly allocated safety money, they must enact a law that requires first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device if they want to continue driving.  By seeking implementation in this way, MADD can avoid fights in more driver-friendly state legislatures.  Given the long history of pandering to MADD, this commentator is not hopeful of a pro-driver outcome.

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