Issues & Insights

How About A Kill Switch To Shut Down Washington?

Kris Kristofferson said that “freedom” is “just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” To the political left, freedom is an abomination that must be defined and controlled by the ruling class elites. And what better way to do that than to crack down on automobile travel?

Cars are a favorite target of all progressives and most Democrats. No human invention has increased freedom as much as the automobile. That’s why they have chosen to go to war on cars. It’s a long-term campaign that will take decades to finish. But there are victories along the way, and one of them was won in Washington with the help of Republicans.

According to Bob Barr, a former federal prosecutor and congressman from Georgia, the infrastructure bill the president signed a little more than a year ago includes “​​​​a little-noticed ‘safety’ measure that will take effect in five years.” It “amounts to a ‘vehicle kill switch,’” Barr wrote in the Daily Caller, and every car built after 2026 has to have one.

Of course, the mandate was characterized “as a benign tool to help prevent drunk driving.” But safety is always a pretense for further government intervention and the erosion of liberty. Prime example: The COVID-19 lockdowns we just went through. 

Writing in Motorius, automotive journalist Steven Symes notes that, ​to many, a mandatory kill switch “might sound like a wonderful idea.”

“After all, we’ve seen wanted criminals who have fled from police only to crash into a car with a family inside, killing innocents as they try to avoid capture. Being able to stop the pursuit early and almost instantaneously seems like a wonderful thing, a potential lifesaver any law-abiding citizen would enthusiastically embrace.”

The trouble is, too many in government refuse to abide by the law. Only the naive will believe that vehicle kill switches will be used only for lifesaving purposes. Imagine how a Transportation Department secretary appointed by a Democrat would use such a tool for the purpose of “fighting global warming” – to return to a simpleton’s platitude oft spouted by Al Gore, who’s made a career out of belching mindless drivel. He or she could dictate when and how far people drive.

What makes this threat so real is that driving restrictions are already being suggested and in some cases implemented, from “Car-free Sundays in cities” and “Alternate private car access to roads in large cities,” to fossil fuel suppression schemes, to traffic filtering, limits on automobile ownership, and a paleo road diet.

We can’t overlook the fact that the kill-switch mandate sure looks like a violation of the probable cause requirement that must be met before someone or their property can be searched, as it will “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired.”

In other words, every driver is being spied on whether they’ve done anything to arouse suspicion or wrongdoing or not. Apparently, our driving is not our business or our own private matter, but an activity that must be tracked by the state.

Symes helpfully points out another ugly possibility, which seems more of a probability: an administrative system unable to distinguish between the legal and the illegal.

“Do you want government regulators helping to write algorithms which might force your car to pull over and stop,” he asks, “because you might be a little tired instead of tipsy?”

We hope we’re overreacting, that our fears are unnecessarily inflated. But experience tells us that we should be deeply concerned because we know that the political left wants us out of our cars and into the public transit systems they wish to overload with the masses. Never underestimate the maliciousness of progressive politicians, functionaries, and agitators.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • It appears that one use of the switch is to ban entry onto certain roads where electric cars are free to roam. A hostile nation could permanently disable an enemy’s entire transport fleet, and invade.

    There exists mechanisms for disabling cars now through their electronic systems. There are EMP devices that blow the motherboard.

    Wouldn’t it be convenient for hijackers to force a vehicle to a stop, take the car, then start it again?

  • I’ve been watching a sort of a kill switch the last few days in the blocking of McCarthy. Mr. Ramirez says/illustrates that they are clowns for causing debate. Go figure.

  • Once a kill switch is in place, nogoodniks can build devices to disable cars to either cause accidents or to rob the occupants. Always remember the law of unintended consequences.

  • Canada’s PM Trudeau would love this power as well: “We have intel that they’re heading to a protest, shut it down!”

  • Vehicles can already be started remotely by services such as OnStar and that’s been true for some time. It would shock me if the intrepid programmers at GM didn’t also have a shutdown in there too. Buy a motorcycle instead.

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