When Big Things are going on, little things often slip by unnoticed. Such is the case with regard to the recent nomination of Charles Hurley to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is the federal government’s chief regulatory apparat governing both automobiles and what may be done with them on public roads.
NHTSA is actually a pretty big deal, given the power it wields over one of the country’s last remaining major industries, as well as anyone who drives a motor vehicle. And the nomination of Hurley is an ominous development for both. If his prior record is any indication, we can expect more in the way of arbitrary interference with the way the car companies do business at a moment when they can least afford the burden of bureaucratic meddling. And drivers can expect a ratcheting up of the low-grade harassment they already endure — in the form of more obnoxious laws, especially “safety” checks and very possibly lowered speed limits — all of it imposed on the states in the time-honored way: Uncle Sam will withhold federal highway funds for any refusal to toe the line.
Why be worried? For openers, Hurley is a former leader of Mothers Against Drunk Driving — arguably the most unreasonable and totalitarian-minded “special interest” in all of D.C. Its original mission — a public campaign to make driving drunk unacceptable — has metastasized into a crusade against any consumption of alcohol whatsoever. The legal standard for “drunk” driving has already been lowered to .08 BAC — a level well below the .10 and up at which people have actual accidents as opposed to running afoul of “sobriety checkpoints.”
But even that isn’t enough. MADD wants the legal threshold reduced to .04 BAC, which would turn anyone who had a glass of wine over dinner into a “drunk driver” as far as the law was concerned — and subject them to penalties more severe than those applied to many violent felons.
Hurley was the chief cheerleader for this grossly disproportionate, factually unsupportable crusade. As NHTSA head, expect him to push the MADD agenda as far as he can — including mandatory in-car alcohol detectors for everyone, not just those already convicted of DWI. “Sobriety checkpoints” — where random people are randomly subjected to Gestapo-like stop and frisks, for absolutely no reason other than they happened to be driving on a particular road at a given time — will be stepped up.
Prior to becoming MADD’s Obergruppenführer, Hurley was head of the National Safety Council — essentially, the agit-prop organ of the insurance cartel — where he helped force-feed airbags and “primary enforcement” seat belt laws on the public.
Mandatory airbags — which add thousands of dollars to the price/lifetime ownership costs of every new car — have arguably helped undermine the car industry by making new cars much more expensive and thus less affordable to consumers as well as less profitable to sell. Airbags are also the only “safety” device known to maim and even kill. It’s true “only” a relative handful of people have been sent to a slab or permanently disfigured (eyes popped out of their sockets, etc.) by the force of a deploying airbag. But one imagines that matters a great deal to those involved, if not to Hurley.
Some might argue they’d prefer to make the choice to have or not have airbags — for safety or cost reasons — on their own. Hurley sneers at such a concept. If “most” people benefit from airbags (according to him), then what of the few who might get hurt? To make an omelet, one must break eggs, after all. And the cost? Improved “safety” — as defined by Hurley — is well worth the expense. The Little People must have guidance since they are too dumb to know what’s best for them.
The same goes for laws that make wearing a seatbelt mandatory — and which give the cops authority to pull drivers over for failing to do so. Hurley, like the rest of Washington’s ruling caste, knows what’s best for us — and intends to enforce it at gunpoint.
As head of NHTSA, he will wield immense power to do precisely that — and more besides. Expect photo radar and red light cameras to proliferate; have no doubt there will be a major push for a “pay as you go” driving tax — with mandatory GPS transponders for every vehicle, so that Uncle can keep track of where, when, and how much you drive — and send you a bill accordingly.
The good times are only just starting to roll.