A Test on Drinking and Driving

I recently had to get a new drivers license and since I happened to be physically located in an area with different arbitrary boundaries than the previous set of arbitrary boundaries where I lived.  Therefore I had to take test on the rules for operating a motor vehicle in this new geographical area.

There are a lot of odd things about this test.  For example each question was weighted equally despite the potential negative consequences.  The question about how to turn your wheels in case the transmission’s park and the parking break systems on your car failed (an unlikely scenario which if done wrong would result in your car disrupting traffic) is treated the same as if you had run a red light and t-boned someone killing the occupants. 

Clearly there are problems with the way this test is constructed.  Isn’t it interesting how you can miss the most deadly 20% of the questions and still get your license?

The area that irked me the most were the questions about alcohol.  These bothered me quite a bit.  I found 16 alcohol related questions from a sample test for the way alcohol impacts driving within my current arbitrarily defined boundaries.

  • If you are over 21 years old, BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of _____ or higher is illegal
  • Alcohol can:
  • Prescription or over the counter drug can:
  • What is a chemical test used to measure:
  • Which of the following can affect your driving ability?
  • On average, 12 ounces of beer could be cleared in your body in about:
  • After drinking, you should:
  • How many alcoholic drinks does it take to affect your driving?
  • When alcohol and drugs are combined in your blood:
  • When you are driving in the States, you have consented to:
  • How long does it take to clear three beers in your system?
  • What should you do before driving if you are taking a non-prescription drug?
  • What is the effect of drinking coffee after drinking alcohol?
  • What is the only way to “sober up” before you drive?
  • Alcohol is a:
  • Which of the following does Blood alcohol content (BAC) not depend on?

Where’s the “I don’t drink” option? Seriously. I used to have to know this stuff because how it impacted my job in the Army. When you’re in charge of Soldiers it’s a good idea to know about alcohol consumption and how it impacts the body and what legal limits are. Since this was my first test after leaving the Army those things didn’t seem to matter anymore… I don’t need to know how much to advise someone to drink. I don’t need to know techniques for taking someone keys. I don’t need to know this stuff because my life is now alcohol free! I’m no longer required to go to events where alcohol is served and I am responsible for those consuming it. So, why was I getting asked the questions?

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This is another good example of where governments fail. In most of our lives we enjoy personalized experiences even with some of the largest corporations the world has ever known. Amazon is a great example of this. Huge corporation with massive warehouses and infrastructure, yet your relationship with it is highly personalized. I’ve never once had Amazon suggest kitty litter (because I don’t own a cat) or alcohol related products (because I don’t drink).

Governments have a difficult problem going forward because they offer very limited choices. There’s only one test for driving inside of the arbitrarily drawn boundaries and it’s designed for people who drink or plan on drinking at some point in their lives.

I’m happy that there’s likely going to come a day when my children’s generation who are so used to hyper focused experiences meet with government experiences like this and just wonder why it couldn’t be more personalized especially when they see the price tag we’ve left them for such one-size-fits-all experiences.

Yes, there is a solution to this. Let insurance companies issue both driver’s licenses and license plates. The insurance company has the greatest incentive to keep you safe on the road–not the government. A state could easily license insurance companies and the equipment for them to issue plates and licenses to drivers. They would be more likely to respond to market forces like the booming population increase in Boise/Ada County Idaho. I know it sounds controversial, but a driver’s license is way less complex than putting objects in orbit and since Space-X (a private company) is now doing just that for NASA. Oh, and the rocket analogy has even more application since rocket technology are considered ballistic missiles and have to be heavily licensed. If we can figure it out how to license ballistic missile technology going to space and landing again why can’t we figure it out how to put those invested in our greatest success on the road in a position where they could innovate?

My insurance company would know I don’t drink. I could opt out of the questions or chose to take them in exchange for lowering my rate. One day I hope to have the freedom to do that.