New Invasion of Privacy: Black Boxes in Cars

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Issues, Taxes

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Earlier this year, we warned about a provision in the highway bill that would pave the road for mandating the installation of black boxes in automobiles.  Much like the recording devices embedded in aircraft, these data recorders would allow collision investigators to ascertain certain information preceding a car crash.  This is obviously not something that most Americans would feel comfortable with, yet it is one more example of the fed’s creeping statism and infringement of our privacy.

Despite the fact that this provision was removed from the final bill that passed Congress earlier this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is already making rules for those manufacturers that install optional data recorders.  The Hill reports:

New federal standards for “black boxes” that record information leading up to auto accidents will will take effect Sept. 1, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled on Tuesday.

The decision means the new standards for the devices will not be delayed by one year, as automakers had requested.

The federal standards will apply only to cars that are voluntarily outfitted with event data recorders (EDRs), also known as black boxes. But while the government does not yet require all cars to have black boxes installed, NHTSA is still thought to be considering a federal mandate as a next step, possibly this year.

This is how all meretricious bureaucratic ideas take root.  They begin with a few legislative trial balloons that fail to gain enough support.  Then they try implementing optional rules and programs.  Eventually, they evince a sense of inevitability and garner majority support for their idea.  The data recorders must be stopped now.

We are already facing another looming threat to our transportation privacy in the form of a Vehicle Mile Traveled (VMT) tax.  This odious idea would allow the government to tax you per mile traveled on highways through some sort of a tracking device.

Folks, it’s enough that we are denuded of our privacy while traveling through airports.  We must ensure that our unrestricted right to travel by car – the paradigm of American freedom – remains unfettered.  Yet, as long as we continue to support a national transportation policy run by the federal government, we will remain vulnerable to more restrictions on our freedoms.  Sadly, 24 Republican senators and 186 Republican representatives voted for the latest federal highway bill.  By voting for a transportation bill that will engender the need for future tax increases and force all 50 states to rely on the federal government for that revenue, they have exposed us to future policies that will restrict and regulate our automobile travel.

Twenty years after completion of the interstate highway system, the real solution to our infrastructure problems is to get the federal government out of surface transportation altogether.  By devolving transportation spending to the states and abolishing the Federal Transit Administration and most of the Federal Highway Administration, we will not only save money and improve our infrastructure, we will also preserve our liberties.