Regulating Common Sense

By Jason Menard

Again, another holiday weekend passes with thousands of highway traffic infractions, scores of drunk driving charges, and a few – a few too many – fatalities. And so it’s more evident than ever that if humanity isn’t enough, then technology must step in to fill the breach.

If we can’t regulate ourselves, then we need to have regulators. End point.

The technology exists, but it’s more politics than practicality that prevents automakers from installing drunk driving and speed regulators. And without the political pressure to do so, why would they incur any extra expense?

So how many more people have to die for us to get the point?

Every car should have an inhibitor that would prevent the starting of a vehicle when someone who is above the legal limit of alcohol is at the wheel. Currently those against the issue claim that having to blow into a testing device is too cumbersome and is punishing the innocent. To which I question what’s more inconvenient: having the comfort of knowing that everyone else on the road isn’t driving three sheets to the wind, or allowing the status quo and watching more and more people become irrecovably injured or killed?

Inconvenience me! Please.

In fact, where’s the argument? Unless you drive drunk, then you shouldn’t have a problem with this action? This isn’t a matter of Big Brother watching over you – it’s a matter of common sense. Unfortunately we’ve proven that common sense isn’t all that common.

As for speed, we have limits on the highway – and we have those who are willing to exceed those limits at all times. I admit, I’m one of them. In the city, I do my best to abide by the posted speed limits. But on our frequent trips down the 401 to Montreal and back, I can’t say I don’t cruise at a steady 120 or 130 kph, depending on the flow of traffic.

Of course, I’m also convinced that if I drove at 100 kph, the posted speed limit, I’d be posing more of a hazard than through my belief in keeping pace with the other vehicles around me.

So, raise the speed limit – and not just to 110 like Manitoba is proposing – but to 120 or 130. Our cars are faster, more responsive, and more effective than those that were in existence when the Trans-Canada highway was built. So let’s acknowledge that, raise the speed limit, and regulate vehicles so that they can’t exceed that speed.

Sure, that doesn’t affect the speeders in cities and on secondary highways, but it does reduce the need for police presence on the highways. It doesn’t eliminate it, mind you, as there are those who will continue to drive erratically – which is just as great of a danger – and those who will mechanically circumvent the regulator. But, for the rest of us, we’re good to go.

Naysayers point to the prohibitive cost of installing these tools, but that’s an argument rooted in fallacy and selective accounting. Yes, currently drunk driving regulators cost $1,000 US. But the simple economics of supply and mass production would mandate that if these regulators came standard with every North American produced car, then the cost would be minimized. Secondly, there are new and exciting technologies that would reduce the inconvenience factor as new tests will be able to detect the presence of alcohol through skin.

As well, insurance companies could get on board and would be able to reduce rates, knowing that there will be a precipitous drop in selective claims. Thus, any expenditure for a regulator could be made up – even within a year or two of vehicle ownership – through rebates and promotions from the insurance industry.

Finally, we would be able to deploy our already-stretched-thin police force in a more effective manner. Instead of wasting one of our finest on a day shift of pointing a radar gun at passing motorists, they could be better served tracking down people that are committing serious crimes! They could increase their presence in the cities instead of holding fort on a bleak stretch of paved shoulder on the highways of our nation.

Unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common. And if humanity can’t take care of itself through organic means, then humanity has to protect itself through the magic of technology. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument that would allow us to drive drunk. There is no human freedom that affords you the right to get behind the wheel after tying one on.

Arguments to the contrary? How about Transport Canada’s 2003 numbers that say that 902 lives were lost in accidents where a driver had been drinking. That’s 902 extremely compelling arguments – and those are just the fatalities. How many more people have been injured by drunk driving and excessive speeds?

How many more have to die before we realize that we have the technology to make a difference. We just need the political wherewithal to do something about it.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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