Anti-drunk driving ignition locks gaining political support in 2009

Last May, we noted the ongoing political fight between restaurateurs and anti-drunk driving advocates over special ignition locks that prevent people over a certain blood alcohol limit from driving a car. This squabble, which combined a legal mandate with a technological nudge, has continued into 2009, with drunk driving foes winning political support in Alaska, Colorado, Nebraska, Washington, and here in Illinois. Starting this year, the states are requiring that all motorists convicted on first-time drunk driving to have them installed in their cars. And they are not cheap, according to Newsweek.

Users must pay for the fist-sized devices, which in Illinois cost around $80 to install on dashboards and $80 a month to rent; there’s also a $30 monthly state fee. And they require periodic retesting while the car is running.

The fine print in some of these laws does give convicted drunk drivers a choice. Illinois drivers can opt-out of the ignition locks, but must give up driving privileges over the entire suspension period. Colorado drivers have a similar choice. They can install the devices, or take a longer suspension. To the Nudging community: Do these arrangements qualify the ignition lock laws as examples of libertarian paternalism? Or are they still just an old fashioned legal mandate?

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3 Responses to “Anti-drunk driving ignition locks gaining political support in 2009”

  1. Tucker Says:

    The different state laws seem to be differing degrees from nudging to requirements. It seems reasonable to have a tradeoff between a monetary and convenience cost and a suspended license, which is generally the choice.

  2. James Says:

    Or, if even benign manipulation is the new mother of invention, will it simply spawn a new wave of designated breathers?

  3. Philip Frankenfeld Says:

    Strict license suspension
    To keep us on track is
    Like Ulysses’s plugged sailors
    –The praxis of waxes!

    The ignition that blocks drunks?
    –Contingent it’s true!
    LIke Ulysses you can have your kick
    . . . And edict too!

    But both entail mandates!
    Ulyssean volition?
    “Amassed restraint”? Not quite
    Nor “conscious sedition”!

    Tamed and tied’s swayed toward no one!
    When Ulysseanly bound you’re
    On rocks or on roadside
    Less likely to founder!


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