Legislative Social Engineering

The Kentucky House of Representatives has been busy with measures dealing with social change. HB 58, passed 94-0, would mandate that a device be attached to a DUI offender’s vehicle that would disallow the car-engine to start if the driver failed a sobriety breath-test embedded in the device, assuming the driver to be still sober enough to find and activate the device.

Sound like a good idea? Of course…but only if the driver and not a less-drunk passenger (or a dog) activates the device! The DUI threshold for tolerance in Kentucky is .08. Question: At what setting would the breathalyzer on the device indicate as safe – .04, .02, or maybe .07? After all, a driver pulled over by an officer is not a DUI candidate if he checks in at .07. Logically and legally, then, the limit would be at .07, virtually the same as the feared DUI mark.

That’s not good enough, especially since people should never drive if they have imbibed any amount of alcohol. The difference between being legally drunk and not drunk (.01), besides being infinitely small, means nothing to a family whose loved one is killed by a driver checking in at .07, making him unsusceptible to a DUI murder/manslaughter charge that can be lodged against a driver checking in at .08.

The breathalyzer device would be susceptible to tampering that could render it totally useless. Would the offending driver be required to submit his car for testing once a month, once a week…or ever? Is this covered in the bill? Radar devices used by the police have to be tested and calibrated periodically, lest the results not stand up in Court, so one would assume the bill allows for this. If not, it’s useless.

A much better punishment for a DUI offense would be the impoundment of the car. The offender couldn’t tamper with this solution and, more importantly, he wouldn’t be on the road in it again if it were impounded…say, for six months and simply confiscated for a second offense. Such a law would have actual teeth. Only a few instances of its implementation would probably be needed to sharply curtail drunk-driving.

HB 35 has been passed, allowing anyone over 18 years of age to acquire a protective order against whomever he/she deems a threat. These orders are currently aimed at “domestic violence” victims, defined as married couples, shack-up couples and those who have a child together.

Those categories cover all the bases as a domestic matter but now any 18-year-old can apparently petition the court for protection, just naming the person to be protected against, with no domestic connection. Imagine the extra effort and expense required of law enforcement to monitor what could be an act of revenge by a high school senior girl against the guy who drops her for another “lovely.”

This is social engineering gone amok. Why set the age-limit at 18? Why not 14, an age when a possible victim is far more vulnerable, especially in the world of bullies? A person can vote at 18 and join the army, so maybe that’s the reason. Do minors lack equal rights?

HB 225 is out of both the Education and Appropriations/Revenue Committees and would raise the school-dropout-age from 16 to 18, at least eventually. This writer spent five years teaching mostly high-school math in another life, learning firsthand how dealing with the no-learners steals huge amounts of time from teaching both the slow-learners and the fast-learners.

Teachers shouldn’t be forced to face this problem. The students are the ones who suffer, denied the teacher’s time and thus the ultimate opportunity to excel or at least obtain a passing knowledge of any subject. The big news lately is that only 34% of high school grads in Kentucky are equipped for either college or careers – intolerable, especially considering the inordinately huge segment of state/local budgets dedicated to education.

Except in rare cases, a 17-year-old entering tenth instead of twelfth grade is too academically impaired to do more than take up space except, perhaps, in one area in which there is interest. It would be better to direct no-learner students into endeavors in which they can be successful but outside the school setting, in which they are uncomfortable or determined to be disruptive. Simply blaming teachers for lacking motivational skills is not the answer. Forcing them to handle uninterested, often disruptive and incorrigible non-learners exacerbates their problems.

None of these social-engineering efforts are worth much and may even be harmful, as in encouraging the boozer to periodically check his heap in the parking lot to keep his breathalyzer below the DUI threshold, thus encouraging drinking rather than discouraging it.