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Restaurant Group to Sen. Schumer: Alcohol Detectors Don’t Belong in All Cars

July 8, 2010


WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which represents over 8,000 American restaurants including over 230 in New York, criticized Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) for driving a movement to mandate alcohol detection devices in all cars.

Today, Sen. Schumer will hold a press conference to push a bill providing $60 million for the development of alcohol detection devices to be installed as standard equipment on all carswithin 5-10 years. This proposal is part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010.

“Those supporting this bill want to use your tax dollars to pour millions into a project that seeks to make alcohol detectors – such as sniffers, skin sensors, and breathalyzers – standard in all cars as original equipment, just like seatbelts and airbags are now,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “This campaign represents the anti-alcohol movement at its worst.”

For legal, liability, and even physiological reasons, in-car alcohol detectors would have to be set below the legal limit – most likely around 0.03-0.04. The head of the research project that this bill seeks to fund has even admitted that the devices would be set below the legal limit. This would effectively eliminate Americans’ ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, a beer at a ball game, or a champagne toast at a wedding and drive home.

Sen. Schumer has claimed that the technology wouldn’t impede a sober driver from starting their car. But, even if these new devices were 99.99966% effective (and that’s a big “if”), there would still be almost 4,000 cases of misreadings per day. That’s thousands of people trying to go to work, school, or about their business who could find their car locked down by a faulty alcohol detector and could even face false accusations of drunk driving from local police.

“Everyone opposes drunk driving,” continued Longwell, “but putting alcohol detectors in all cars as standard equipment—set well below .08—would make all driving Americans guilty until proven innocent every time they started their cars. Alcohol detection technology is a great way to keep hard core drunk drivers—those who cause the vast majority of alcohol-impaired fatalities—from being able to start their cars while drunk. But we shouldn’t be developing this technology with the aim of putting it in everyone’s car.”

The American Beverage Institute strongly urges Congress to reject the campaign to put alcohol detection devices in all cars.


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