Vehicle safety systems – do they supersede individual responsibility?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Chris Woodward (

A senior fellow with the Independent Women's Forum has concerns that new research on vehicle safety systems will take away the responsibility of adults.

The federal government said this month it is speeding up research on things that automatically prevent a driver from operating a vehicle if he or she is drunk and/or not wearing a seat belt properly. It comes after an increase last year in the number of traffic fatalities, some of them involving people not wearing seat belts. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people were killed in drunken driving crashes, an increase of more than four percent from 2011.

Julie Gunlock with the Independent Women's Forum voices some concern about such innovations, however well-intentioned.


"People tend to react to these stories with, Hey, that's great, the car won't start if you're intoxicated or The car won't start if you haven't buckled in your seat belt," says Gunlock, "but I have to say I have somewhat of a problem with these measures because it sort of infantilizes the American public.

"[It implies] they can't make good and proper and responsible decisions on their own, or they actually need to put a device in the car that makes the decisions for them."

Gunlock believes responsible citizens shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car if they have been drinking. She feels the same way about buckling seat belts.

"As far as the seat belt issue is concerned, mothers often have to undo their seat belts to get in the back to help the kids," she explains. "My husband and I were driving once and I spent a good deal of time sort of bent over the backseat feeding my kids or soothing them, and the entire time the seat belt alarm was going off."

So while Gunlock acknowledges the intentions of such laws and devices are often good, she remains concerned about them "taking away the responsibility of adults."

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