A proposal buried in President Joe Biden’s 2,700-page infrastructure plan would require new automobiles to include “advanced drunk and impaired driving technology” that would monitor a driver’s performance and determine if he or she is intoxicated.
The device would “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired,” according to the bill’s wording. Furthermore, the technology would “passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of the driver of a motor vehicle” should prevent the car from being operated.
Last month, President Joe Biden declared his support for the plan, calling it “an investment in making our economy more sustainable, resilient, and equitable.” The law is touted as “a critical step in implementing President Biden’s Build Back Better vision,” according to the White House.
“It certainly looks like this opens the door for mandatory breathalyzers in every new car. It’s crazy,” a senior Republican aide told the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. The policy is the result of a campaign led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
A group of determined victims and committed lawmakers have brought us to this moment. Many thanks @RepDebDingell @SenatorLujan @RepKathleenRice @SenRickScott @SenGaryPeters @RepMcKinley @janschakowsky for championing eliminating impaired driving!
— MADD (@MADDOnline) August 3, 2021
In 2021, MADD hired lobbying company ML Strategies to the tune of $40,000 to influence Congress on automobile sector rules. Christian Fjeld, vice president of ML Strategies and MADD’s lobbyist on the issue, spent nearly a decade working with Democratic leadership on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, including former senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is now the Biden administration’s NASA chief.
Intoxalock, a producer of automotive breathalyzers, has likewise spent a lot of money on lobbying in the previous five years. Since 2017, the Center for Responsive Politics has spent more than $900,000 on lobbyists, including $40,000 to Crossroads Strategies in 2021, according to the organization.
Many of the firm’s employees have worked for the federal government, the House of Representatives, or the Senate in the past. Rep. John Sarbanes’s (D-Md.) chief of staff from 2009-2018 was Jason Gleason, executive vice president of Crossroads Strategies and one of the firm’s numerous lobbyists working for Intoxalock. Gleason was on the staff of former Senator Paul Sarbanes from 2001-2007.
According to the regulation, new technology will “prevent or limit motor vehicle operation if a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit is detected,” According to a senior Senate staffer participating in the bipartisan infrastructure agreement negotiations, most senators were likely unaware of the clause, and many hadn’t even read the bill.
The bill failed to pass the Senate despite clearing several significant procedural hurdles in July. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill may be voted on as soon as Wednesday, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked for more time to review the final language.