A group representing restaurants across the country criticized a federal bill that would require all cars to contain alcohol detection devices.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is sponsoring the bill, said he wants to divert $60 million in existing road safety funds over a five-year period to develop affordable alcohol detection devices that would help to reduce drunk-driving incidents. According to the bill, the devices would become standard in all automobiles within five to 10 years.
The detectors would utilize technology that would enable a car to determine the driver’s alcohol level through skin sensors, breathalyzers or even eye movements. If a detector determines that a driver’s alcohol content exceeds a certain level, the car will not start.
“Drunk driving is a scourge that touches countless families … and it’s time to take a fresh approach to this problem that will keep drinkers from even starting a car," Schumer said at a press conference Wednesday. "This research will provide a new tool for parents and law enforcement to make sure that families and communities stay safe.”
The American Beverage Institute, which said it represents 8,000 restaurants, issued a statement against the proposed bill, saying that the alcohol detectors for cars would likely be set below the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent.
"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," the group added. "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."
Schumer’s bill, the Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere, or ROADS SAFE, Act, is part of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010.
“Alcohol detection technology is a great way to keep hardcore drunk drivers — those who cause the vast majority of alcohol-impaired fatalities — from being able to start their cars while drunk," the ABI said in its statement. "But we shouldn’t be developing this technology with the aim of putting it in everyone’s car.”
Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected]