NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Mexico Mandates Breathalyzer Ignition Locks

February 20, 2004

On Monday, the New Mexico House of Representatives approved legislation to mandate breathalyzer ignition locks on all cars in the state that would operate The devices -- which motorists would have to blow into before starting their cars every time they get behind the wheel -- are supposed to detect alcohol and prevent an engine from being started if any is present. A supportive Senate debated the legislation this week, and Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has promised to sign it into law.

This is an example of the nanny state at its worst, says the Washington Times.

  • At approximately $1,000 a piece, the so-called drunk-driving locks are an expensive penalty for the state to levy against the majority of New Mexicans who are not guilty of any crime.
  • There will also be the predictable hassles and delays when the gadgets don't work. For example, factors other than booze, such as mouthwash, could skew the breath tests.
  • The electrical systems of some cars simply will not accept aftermarket retrofitted electronics.

In a big, free country, it is impossible to insulate everyone from harm everywhere, every moment. Some troublemakers will always take advantage of their freedom to do things that are wrong and that will hurt innocent people. The appropriate response is to punish the criminal and send a message to others that such acts are not tolerated. Punishing innocents and restricting everyone's freedoms are unjust solutions to correct the mistakes of a few. Unfortunately, that is what New Mexico legislators are out to do, says the Times.

Source: Editorial, "New Mexico is nuts," Washington Times, February 20, 2004.


Browse more articles on Government Issues