When “Impaired” isn’t “Drunk”

  • September 25, 2023

You may have heard that, beginning with the 2026 model year, all new vehicles must be equipped with a system capable of detecting a putatively “impaired” driver – and disabling the vehicle, so that the “impaired” (putatively) driver cannot drive – or continue driving.

The vehicle either will not start – or it will stop.

Many people think it is a fine idea to stop “impaired” drivers. They are the same people who think it’s a fine idea to randomly stop drivers who’ve given no one any reason to suspect they might be “drunk” – and then make them prove they’re not.

Such people might want to give some thought to what will constitute the definition of “impairment.” Hence the putative qualifier in italics above.

Most people automatically think “drunk” when they hear “impaired” – which is reasonable because it’s the common interpretation. Just the same as most people thought they would be immunized when they heard “vaccine.” But there is a reason why impairment rather than drunk is being used to describe the system that will be embedded in all new vehicles, beginning with the 2026 models. It is essentially the same reason why drugs was not used to describe the substances millions allowed themselves to be injected with, believing they were getting vaccinated.

The reason is this:

“Impairment” will encompass any driving behavior that falls outside the parameters of acceptability, as determined by the programming that will be used to identify putatively “impaired” driving. Which will be equated with sober driving but faster than whatever the posted speed limit is and especially with accelerating up to speed “aggressively.” Similarly if you don’t brake “gently.” Basically, any “sudden” or “abrupt” or illegal movement by the vehicle will be taken as evidence of driver impairment.

Even if you’re not doing any of the above but merely not looking where the car’s cameras – which are looking at you – think you ought to be looking.

Eyes forward, kinder!

If you doubt this is what’s planned you might want to check into what’s already in place. Commercial trucks already have such “impaired” driver detection technology built into them. It is why the semi truck in the left lane isn’t “passing” the semi truck in the right lane. He’s trying to. The problem is it’s hard to pass a truck doing 53 in a 55 when you can’t drive faster than 55 to get past him. If you do go faster than 55 – assuming the truck allows it – the trucking company will know about and the driver will hear about it.

Most non-commercial vehicles made since about five years ago have everything already built-in to curb “impaired” driving. The list includes Lane Keep Assist – which tries to keep you from changing lanes, if you’ve not signaled first. And Emergency Brake Assist – which brakes when there is no emergency but rather because the system thinks you’re too close to the car ahead of you. Which it consider to be an “emergency.”

This makes taking advantage of gaps in traffic – to Frogger your way around the slow-pokes – not just difficult but dangerous. Because having the brakes suddenly and unexpectedly slam on when you’re trying to accelerate – and weave through traffic – is a great way to get rear-ended.

Of course, the foregoing exercise of initiative is said to be “unsafe” – as is any driver action that is “illegal,” a such as not coming to a dead stop at every stop sign, even when it’s clear there is no need to come to a dead stop because there is no traffic coming. Or – similarly – making a right turn (or a U Turn) when a sign says you’re not allowed to do. Because whoever put up the sign considers it “unsafe,” always – even when it might be perfectly safe for a competent driver to perform the maneuver.

Every driver is presumed incompetent.

Just as every driver who happens to be on the road is presumed “drunk” at what are styled “sobriety checkpoints.” They are checkpoints. That much is etymologically honest, at least. On the pretense of identifying “drunk” drivers, every driver is identified – he must produce his papers – and if they are not in order, he will be dealt with no matter how not-“drunk” he is. The same as regards his vehicle. A brake light out or an inspection sticker missing have nothing to do with sobriety. But “sobriety is the perfect excuse to “check” for them.

Just the same, a technology that is being sold to the rubes as a way to prevent “drunks” from driving will be used to prevent them from driving – by equating how they drive with “impairment.”

And few will object – because those who do will be smeared as supporters of “drunk” driving. Just the same as those who opposed being forced to take drugs were smeared as “anti-vaxxers.”

. . .

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