Hooniverse Asks: Would You Support a Driver's License Interlock on New Cars?

I recently saw a news item about an 82-year old man who was struck in the crosswalk by a woman in a minivan, and dragged hundreds of feet resulting in his death. The woman claimed to have not even known she had struck the octogenarian. She also was driving without the benefit of a driver’s license or auto insurance.
Okay, first off, screw people who do that. I got to thinking about how we could keep bad apples like that woman off the road and I came up with what I think is a brilliant plan. That is, to build an ignition interlock into all new cars that requires the driver to insert their driver’s license into a dash-mounted slot before the car will start. I mean, you’re going to be taking your license with you anyway, right?
That check would keep a lot of unlicensed (and unqualified) drivers off the roads, including those who have lost their licenses due to DUIs or other tomfoolery. It would also allow the car to make a quick check with the insurance company to ensure everything’s a-okay with your policy before you could high-tail it anywhere.
Yes, there are ways around such a safeguard: a passenger could provide the license allowing a scofflaw to dive, but I think that would be the rare occurrence. No, the bigger question is, would you be willing to make such a concession to “Big Brother” to ensure an added element of safety on the road? What do you think, would you be okay with a license interlock to drive your car?
Image: adiconsum

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  1. Maymar Avatar

    That just adds unneeded complexity. Make sure it’s not too easy for bad drivers to get licenses, and then give them decent, affordable alternatives to even needing to drive, and then we can talk about how to keep the bad unlicensed drivers from behind the wheel.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    For the limited purpose you state, this isn’t a bad idea. However, it won’t stay that limited. Over time, if not immediately, the system will also report you to the police if the car’s GPS detects you driving over the speed limit, changing lanes without a turn signal, running red lights, or any other infraction. Cars are notoriously lax on network safety, thus opening your driver’s license information and insurance information up to snoops who could use your information for all sorts of nefarious activities.
    Most importantly, though, people who drive without a license or insurance are rarely driving new cars. Thus, you just created a system that is onerous on those who follow the law but does little to nothing to stop those who break the law.

    1. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      this doesn’t seem like a valid objection to me. we don’t require older cars to be retrofitted with new safety equipment, but we mandate it on new cars. the old ones age out of the population eventually.

      1. engineerd Avatar

        Eventually, yes. However, if your goal is to prevent people from driving without a valid license NOW then this does not meet that goal. It just means that people who buy new cars (who also are 99.9% likely to have a valid drivers license) are going to be subject to a system that is not protecting anyone.

        1. wunno sev Avatar
          wunno sev

          why is that our goal? i’d also like to protect everyone who gets t-boned today by retrofitting side airbags into their cars, but it can’t be done. doesn’t mean we don’t install said devices on new cars.
          i don’t see the sense in discarding a solution because it will not be immediately effective for everyone.
          note that i’m not saying a DL interlock is necessarily a good idea, but i don’t think the second “more important” objection you’ve raised is really a meaningful one.
          i don’t know why i’m being such a ding dong about this, sorry. i just feel compelled to argue.

      2. karonetwentyc Avatar

        Except that this doesn’t negate the remainder of the objections that engineerd stated.
        Vehiclular telematics and their relation to privacy are going to become much greater issues as smart roads and autonomous and electric vehicles gain adoption. Current tracking technologies (such as automated licence plate recognition in its present form) are only the tip of the iceberg: when combined with the data that a run-of-the-mill vehicle on the market at this time is capable of generating, it’s possible to know where you went, when you went there, your speed along the route, the time and location of any stops, whether anything was added to or removed from the vehicle (and, in some cases, the inferred weight of those items), and so on and so forth.
        Electric charging stations are capable of uniquely identifying every vehicle plugged into them – and, at an infrastructure level, will be required to do so for billing purposes. Going to the gas station and paying cash is effectively a thing of the past if you’re driving a Tesla or similar.
        Using a cellphone to remotely unlock and / or start your vehicle provides another degree of association between an actor, a location, and a vehicle.
        I could go on, but the crux of the issue boils down to four things: why is this information being stored, how is it being stored, who has access to it, and for what purposes? In addition to that I’d question the necessity of the collection in the first place, but that’s an entirely separate set of questions.
        Questions like these are representative of the sorts of things that I have to deal with professionally, and it frustrates me to no end that the public seems more than happy to have its traditional freedoms eroded, piece by piece, by technology.

        1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

          But EZ Pass is good because it makes it easier for me to pay tolls……wait…..

          1. karonetwentyc Avatar

            OnStar Tracks Your Car Even When You Cancel Service

            Although OnStar claims to have stopped this practice, there’s no way for customers to be sure of that – or to know what data was collected, stored, or accessed.
            But the convenience of not having to make a phone call yourself or ask the person in the passenger seat to look up movie showtimes is totally worth the subscription price!

          2. P161911 Avatar

            If I ever get in a wreck in my 2004 Trailblazer, and OnStar doesn’t call 911, I’m going to sue them under the good Samaritan laws. I last had OnStar in about 2009 when State Farm gave me a year free/snooped on my driving.

        2. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

          Well thought out reply. I’l sum it up: while a license interlock is a GREAT idea in theory, IRL it would be a Trojan Horse later for the worst kind of governmental meddling. If the gov’t passed irrevocable laws that forever limited the use to its original intent, I *might* be for it. But that’s not how governments work…

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    The people that wouldn’t find a workaround are the people that wouldn’t drive without a valid license in the first place.
    This seems well-meaning, but essentially ineffectual.
    Plus, what about temporary (paper) licenses that you may get when changing states, or if you live in a state where your license is collateral for a traffic citation? Sometimes, you can legally drive, but wouldn’t have a license capable of starting your car.

  4. Kiefmo Avatar

    Who’s gonna pay to add that to my old Merc? I ain’t.

  5. ptschett Avatar

    No. Only as a narrowly-applied part of a probationary process for restoring the right to drive after a serious offense, like breathalyzer interlocks. (And remember the relevant subplot in The Fifth Element?)

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Nope. Remember the seat belt starter interlock fiasco of the early 1970’s?
    What happens when you need to rush your infant to the ER and the software decided it is time to reboot.
    I think the shoe bomber knew what he was doing. Sure he failed at blowing up a plane, but how many millions of shoes of innocent travelers have been inspected, at how much cumulative delay, since then. Death by a thousand cuts.

  7. P161911 Avatar

    No. Vehicles aren’t always operated on a public road. Private property doesn’t require a drivers license.

  8. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    No, I would not support it. Not based on the information provided.
    An isolated indecent, while tragic, is not a practical basis for unilateral government intervention. We need to determine how often things like this really occur as a percentage of total accidents or deaths. I’m not saying that every life doesn’t matter. I just think that we live in a world where we have to pick our battles.
    Next I think we need to look at the situation in terms of proper application of penalty. Best case scenario, millions of people are inconvenienced several times per day for no reason whatsoever. Worst case scenario we cause incremental deaths when the system fails in traffic (GM Ignition), on a railroad track, while trying to get someone to the hospital, or when you’re being chased by a bear.
    Lastly I think we have to compare it to other, more direct, options. Why not impound cars owned by offenders? Make them pay for the storage. We already impose punitive fines. Repeat offender’s cars will be sold. They’d borrow a car? Guess what, they’d find a way to borrow a license.
    Unless it made my car faster. Or installed one of those P*ssy Magnets I keep hearing such good things about. In that case, I’m in.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      ” They’d borrow a car? Guess what, they’d find a way to borrow a license.”
      In Europe they’re much more practical with this: if your car was caught speeding, they don’t care who was driving it, the owner of the car gets the bill. It’s up to the owner to then get the money back from whoever they lent their car to.
      I’d handle the “borrowed driver’s license” the same: you let your buddy borrow your drivers license because his was taken away, and he caused an accident? Guess what, now you’re liable for the accident too. That’d cut down on borrowed licenses really quickly.

  9. WinstonSmith84 Avatar

    Every stupid idea costs money. We used to do cost-benefit analysis to figure out which added costs resulted in benefits greater than those costs. Now, it’s all about feelings. We’re doomed. People who think they can solve problems with new regulations are the worst threat we face.

    1. karonetwentyc Avatar

      Cost-benefit analyses were replaced by the statement, “but someone should do something about that!”
      It’s been a fantastic way to create problems where one didn’t really exist previously.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        “If we can save just one life…”

      2. Tiberiuswise Avatar

        If the problem wasn’t real then how come it got 20 bazillion likes on facebook?

  10. Krautwursten Avatar

    No, I wouldn’t. I am however proud that it’s practically impossible to drive without liability insurance here in Germany because you need proof for your registration and the registration office automatically sends a note about your registration to your insurance, and when you cancel your insurance they’re obligated to send a note to your registration office, and if you don’t turn in your plates the cops will come and get them; as opposed to many US states where you can cancel your insurance at any time without consequences and where any responsible driver actually has to get insurance to protect himself from other motorists who are under- or uninsured.

    1. Tiller188 Avatar

      Now, see…maybe it’s a “grass-is-always-greener” thing, and this system has actually also backfired and caused annoyances and problems of various kinds for people, but on paper (er…in text?) that just sounds so sensible and straightforward. Are lag/delay times in those notifications, or just out-and-out communications failures, common? Sounds pretty logical and solid otherwise. (Of course, addressing the issue that the laws only work for the law-abiding, I suppose this doesn’t do anything to stop people who are willing to drive without registration…but one assumes they wouldn’t get very far with no plates in any areas where there is a significant police presence.)

    2. karonetwentyc Avatar

      This is not dissimilar to the system in place in California, though turning in plates isn’t done there; they stay with the car for its lifetime unless a change is requested or vanity plates are purchased.
      One annoyance with California’s system: if you insure a car then decide to take it off the road, cancelling the insurance incurs a $50 penalty. This is particularly annoying if you buy something that’s a borderline project, drive it for a bit, then subsequently decide that it needs more work than is reasonable for a regular driver and park it while you work on it. Even with filing Planned Non-Operation status for the car with the DMV, you’re still hit for the $50 when cancelling the insurance.
      We recently moved out of California to another state and, apart from the $50 penalty they tried to hit me with when I changed the policy to our new State of residence, they also ended up creating a situation whereby our car had two titles and two registrations – one in California, one in our new State.
      Full credit to the California DMV for upholding their reputation for incompetence, however. This is now the second time I’ve taken a car out of there and had them totally, completely, and utterly screw the process up beyond belief whereas the other State manages to handle things as you would expect.

  11. Citric Avatar

    No, because it sounds like a system that requires an internet connection to function. Thats possible in a city, but if you’re in a rural area or on a trip between cities or to some remote places, that connection doesn’t exist.

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      Just have it go through your smartphone. At a cost of 20 cents per start-up. Seriously, you wouldn’t pay 20 cents to save a life? What kind of monster are you?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Personally, I’m the kind without a cellular telephone.

        1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

          When work needs me to have one I use theirs. Otherwise, ♪ ♫ just leave a message, maybe I’ll call ♪ ♫

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            My job has required me to carry a satellite phone on a couple of occasions, but never a cell phone.

        2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

          No cellphone? What kind of monster are you?

        3. 0A5599 Avatar

          Yes, but certainly Big Brother would want DUI interlocks on riding mowers, horses, and recliners by the time they got around to asking you to put one on anything you drive.

      2. Maymar Avatar

        Hell, never mind rural areas, I work on the border of two of the biggest cities in Canada, across the road from the country’s biggest airport, and my cell service is still spotty (although I’m with a budget provider). And I get absolutely no service from my subterranean parking spot at home.

        1. Citric Avatar

          I also get outright terrible phone service if I dare cross the border into Manitoba because of a shady deal between Rogers and MTS.

  12. Gregg Collins Avatar
    Gregg Collins

    There will be a lot of muggings to obtain valid licenses.

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      Not if we make it illegal to mug someone. Wait, never mind. I saw it as soon as I said it.
      How about we make it illegal for people to be out and about when they might get mugged. Yes, that’s better.

      1. karonetwentyc Avatar

        We need mugger-free zones. That will solve the problem.

        1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

          Only if I get the contract to install the signs. Preferably a no-bid contract.

      2. roguetoaster Avatar

        Start issuing walking licenses, and require that each person swipe their car to go outside.
        Don’t have a license in the first place? Too bad, guess you can’t go outside to get one, although we do have a convenient home visit issuance process for the low, low price of….

  13. Alff Avatar

    No. Cost, complexity, nanny state, privacy etc.

  14. salguod Avatar