Oct 202010
 
 October 20, 2010  Featured News, Laws, Non-U.S., Surveillance

Pat Healey reports:

Police may be able to stop drivers for random breath testing if Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is successful in its latest campaign.

MADD Canada is pushing the federal government to pass legislation that will allow officers to stop and ask anyone for a breath sample.

The past president of MADD Canada Margaret Miller said random breath testing would give police the express power to stop vehicles in a sobriety-type checkpoint.

“The main purpose is to be able to stop a group of vehicles, like they do in many countries, and they ask each driver for their license and insurance,” Miller said. “Along with the rest, you will also be asked for a breath sample. The purpose is basically to reduce the number of impaired driving deaths and injuries. We know that when it was first implemented in the 1980s in Australia that they saw within two years a 36 per cent reduction in death and injury.”

Read more in The Weekly Press.

If the tests are truly random, then there is no reasonable suspicion and no valid grounds to intrude on someone’s privacy. Would these advocates say that it’s okay for law enforcement to randomly sample people and read their e-mail or listen in on their phone calls?

A lot of well-intended ideas result in the erosion of privacy and civil liberties. Why not build the technology into cars to determine if the car should be started? Better that than having law enforcement demand a breathalyzer test. Advocates for the idea recognize the privacy concerns but dismiss them:

She admitted not everyone is supportive of the idea and that there are critics of the move to what some deem as an invasion of their privacy.

“The only ones who aren’t behind this are those who think this is violating their right,” Miller said. “Driving has never been a right. It’s always been a privilege. It’s a heavily-regulated activity that the infringement is no greater than what you will get on a plane.

“At the end it will make Canada a better place (to drive) for all Canadians.”

So if it’s okay for your privacy to be invaded in one situation, that justified expanding the privacy invasions to another situation? Amazing logic.

While we’re at it, why not randomly stop drivers and subject them to an EEG to see if they might have an epileptic condition that could cause a seizure while they’re driving? Or maybe we should stop drivers randomly and do a urine test for drugs that could impair them?

C’mon MADD, the goal of reducing avoidable road accidents and fatalities is a worthwhile goal, but this is not the way to do it.

Corey Laroque, who comments on the proposal in the Niagara Falls Review, seems to concur that this is a well-intended but bad idea, and suggests, instead, increasing the use of RIDE stops whereby everyone on a particular stretch of road is stopped.  While I’m not a fan of that approach, it would certainly be preferable to “random” tests — when we all know that “random” never turns out to be truly “random.”

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