The government's plan to make it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel

The government's plan to make it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel

Amid the 2702-page bipartisan infrastructure plan that could get a vote by the week end is a series of safety requirements for the vehicles set to travel on all those new and improved roads. The feds are set to make it more difficult for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel, requiring automakers to install technology in new cars to help prevent drunk driving that could take the form of passive monitors for drivers' breath, eye scans to check focus or even infrared touch tests for ignition buttons.

The mandate could prevent as many as one-third of the traffic-related deaths in the United States caused by impaired drivers. According to the government's own estimates, drunk driving leads to one death every 52 minutes. Congress' proposal is a major public-health move that basically says lawmakers are fine paying for the new roadways, but in exchange they want some safeguards that those new lanes won't be loaded with loaded drivers.

One Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study last year estimated that such a drunk-driving screening could save 9,000 lives and eliminate as many as a million arrests every year. The insurance industry, in other words, would be very, very happy to not pick up the tab for these deadly and avoidable crashes and deaths.

The safety provisions in the framework don't stop at in-car breathalyzers. On top of's anti-impaired driver tech, the spending plan also requires rear guards for semi-trucks to protect passenger vehicles that could rear-end them, an in-car notification every time the engine stops for drivers to check their back seats lest they forget their children in a hot car and a study about whether federal crash test dummies accurately measure the impacts on women, the old and young.

The inclusion of new car safety requirements may seem far afield from the infrastructure deal's stated goal of getting roads and bridges, repairing high-speed Internet for rural communities and strengthening the electrical grid. But unrelated pieces of legislation like this often provide homes for giant nuggets that legislators have been trying to find an runway for years. For instance, fixes to Obamacare in 2010 carried a wholly unrelated tweak to student loans, the federal ID requirements for driving licenses were tacked onto a supplemental spending plan in 2005 and the annual mega-spending bill typically carries a ban on REAL Medicaid dollars being used to pay for abortions.

Car safety measures aren't the only potentially extraneous provisions that are embedded in the half-billion of new spending. A $140 million rare earth demonstration facility to highlight mining's fruits, a new clearinghouse for researchers to have access to the full spectrum of marijuana products on the market and a potentially embarrassing-to-Momentum President Joe Biden report on the number of jobs lost over 10 years because he canceled a permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline. None of these were likely to get sufficient support as political measures but when tucked into a standalone bill that has something for everyone, they're simply the real costs of a win.

In the case of the breathalyzer or its equivalent, Rep. Debbie Dingell has been pushing for years to change requirements for automakers to add screens for impaired drivers? The idea for tech-based screenings had its own supporters in Washington Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of Florida and Republican Sen. Rick Scott from Florida who are among the strongest voices against drunk driving in Florida.

Some states require drivers with drunk driving convictions to use this technology before they get behind the wheel. The Universal use of it imposes a layer of government checks on daily life, but in exchange, Americans receive some measure of assurance that those on the road aren't drunk.

Getting it to Biden's desk is only half the battle, of course. If approved, the manufacturers of the widespread anti-drunk Driving tech would be selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation within the next three years, and automakers would have two more to start using it on new vehicles. The provision also specifies that if Senate Bureaucrats cannot agree on the specifics of the new regulations governing the technology within 10 years, they will have to explain to Congress why not.

In other words, Congress is giving the DOT an off-ramp to automakers should they decide the systems are simply unworkable or too costly? The U.S. Supreme Court has previously said that a President doesn't have the power for a line-item veto in a bill but can do the dirty work by slow-walk of an administrative state. But it doesn't seem very likely that Congress would start down this path if it wasn't convinced there is at least some viable tech that meets its mandate. It's not as if Republicans working on this bill want to be part of the so-called Nanny State.

Who's the best pressure worker to keep up with? Lobbyists for the groups whose main purpose is to make money on this provision. And there are plenty of them. Ride-sharing startups like Uber, insurance companies and tech companies could see their profits grow as it becomes more difficult to get behind the wheel after drinks. Even on actions that make good sense on policy, political money is often what pushes things over the finish line.