Zero-alcohol limit a good idea for young drivers -

Zero-alcohol limit a good idea for young drivers

Restrictions for drivers under 22 is strategic, not discriminatory


Is that a pig soaring over the Ontario Ministry of Transportation head office? Maybe so, because I’m about to applaud Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government.

Let’s just put that sex-ed flip-flopping, secret G20 imaginary lawmaking, eco-fee botching aside, and focus on the provincial government’s latest initiative.

Starting August 1, drivers aged 21 and younger in Ontario caught with any alcohol in their system will have their license automatically suspended for 24 hours. Offending drivers also risk a $500 fine and an extended 30-day suspension. Three violations will result in a cancelled license.

Now, perhaps I’m speaking with gloat of my recent 22nd birthday behind me, but this sounds like an all-around solid idea. There’s no reason why young drivers need to have a drink before driving, and let’s face it—most 19- to 21-year-olds aren’t pouring a glass to explore their taste in Argentinean Shiraz. Drinking and driving are not rights—exclusively or otherwise—so drivers under 22 can put their violins aside and decide between the keys and the bottle.

Easier said than done for some, however, especially the injustice-hunters who have been quick to inform the Twitterverse that the new regulations are “ageist.”  Call it “ageism” if you want, but based on statistics that show drivers aged 19-21 are almost one and a half times more likely to be involved in fatal drinking and driving collisions than other drivers, it’s probably more appropriate to call it “strategic planning.”

Granted, a more infallible way to propose the new regulations would have been to extend the 20-month, zero-alcohol limit under the current graduated licensing system to up to five years for all new drivers, not just those under 22.  That way, novice drivers, regardless of age, wouldn’t pair inexperience with alcohol.

But calling the new rules “discriminatory” is to ignore a plethora of information showing that young drivers, as a group, are not as safe on the road as older drivers. They simply don’t compare. And though it may be a group of bad eggs spoiling it for the rest, the differential treatment on the whole is justifiable. So put down the pint and find something else to do before you get behind the wheel. There’s always pig-watching.

-Photo by DOliphant


Zero-alcohol limit a good idea for young drivers

  1. Is that pig “souring” or “soaring”?

  2. The one thing I like is that currently I can buy a beer or two when out at a bar and still be the designated driver.

  3. The problem is the young drivers that had one beer with dinner are not the ones causing the accidents and the deaths. The drivers operating at or above .08 are still the problem and this will do nothing to curb their actions as they are already willing to break one of the most severe rules of the road. This is a useless and discriminatory law, created in the name of public safety, that is being adopted in absence of proper enforcement of the current laws. This may make anyone who chooses to have a drink or two less careful to limit their intake because they are already screwed if they get busted. You cannot decide that young people are less capable of driving under the same laws after issuing them their full and unrestricted license. This is ageism, pure and simple. Young people should use every political means at their disposal to change this law back to the fair and non-discriminatory way it was before.

  4. More BS from MADD and the dictatorship formerly known as the Ontario Government.
    Hypocrites and scoundrels all, they will not be satisfied until it’s zero tolerance for all Ontario drivers, regardless of age.
    MADD is a special interest group that has far too much influence over the elected officials of this province, and nation as a whole.
    Their constant mantra “if it saves one life” has grown redundant…lets just ban stupid drivers..young or old, sober or drinking, it’s always the idiots that cause the mayhem.

  5. why not make it a zero tolerance for ALL drivers

    Does it mean an adult can drink and drive

  6. I guess no one has thought to think of the country kids. Now we cant have a drink or even have a dd (thanks to previous legislation). Guess we are just supposed to sit at home play video games watch tv and smoke crack like a bunch of city kids? Thanks MADD–AKA: Ontario’s insurance companies; who have billions of dollars gain by increasing rates after people get caught. This is nothing but a disgusting money grab by insurance companies and police in the name of saving lives.

  7. “Soaring.” Thanks, LesH

  8. I can buy the arguement about it being no better than existing laws, if they were enforced more often, but I get a kick out the of how quickly people will cry discrimination. Certain words seem to take on an automatically negative connotation in popular use.

    Discrimination and judgement are two examples that have become dirty words. To judge someone is bad (we are told), though to go through life not making judgements is not a good idea either (our minds tend to form judements on everything anyways).

    Discrimination is not necessarily a scary horrible thing either. We’re lost if we don’t discriminate the differences between things, and sometimes a discrimination is *gasp* accurate. We could just as easily call insurance policies ageist and sexist. Having a drinking age at all is ageist is it not? driving age as well. An employer wanting an employee to be fluent in the dominant language is also quite discriminatory, yet it makes perfect sense.

    We can go on, but I’ll just refer back to the article that younger drivers simply are more risky than older, more experienced drivers. It IS discrimination, accurate discrimination.

  9. I agree with all the people who dislike this law. It makes ABSOLUTELY ZERO SENSE! For one, if it was the reduce drinking and driving, why is there an age limit? I guess it is okay for men and women above the age of 21 to drink and drive, but not anyone younger?! Mind boggling. Secondly, changing the law from .08 to zero tolerance also makes no sense. It just means that more police and security will be pulling over kids who are not drunk in any way, are fully functional and pretty well next to sober and miss the ones that are above .08 and are at risk of their lives, and others.

    There was nothing wrong with young people having one drink at the bar and driving all there friends home, but now there is no difference between one and ten beers in consequential terms (thanks to the new laws) and this will only increase drunk driving in the long run and cost more people their lives. Thanks government.

  10. Pingback: Oy, McGuinty! | The Roof is on Phire

  11. The take home message of this article seems to be that differential treatment based on innate characteristics is justified as long as that innate characteristic is a good predictor for negative behaviour.


    I guess that means racial profiling is okay now, too? After all, certain racial groups are statistically more likely to commit certain types of crimes. Can we apply added health premiums for homosexuals, since they’re at a higher risk of getting HIV and HepC than the general public? Should men have higher taxes, since they tend to make more money than women? Oh, and left-handed people are more likely to be injured on the job. Better discriminate against them too.

    Seriously, this law is ridiculous, unjust, unfair, and sets a TERRIBLE precedent.

  12. @ABarlow

    The examples you cite involve stereotyping as a way to infringe on rights. Drinking and driving is not a right. Driving, on its own, is not a right. I think you’re justified in being wary of these new regulations setting a bad precedent, but I think it’s also important to keep in mind these rules have been implemented with the unique goal of saving lives, in accordance with overwhelming evidence that show young drivers are riskier on the road. (How effective they will actually be remains to be seen.)

  13. @Robyn Urback

    By this logic wouldn’t having zero tolerance across the board save even more lives? If it is dangerous to drive after one or two drinks why is it allowed at all for anyone? You are correct that no one has the right to drink and drive. However, don’t we have the right to be treated equally under the law? Once we are considered an adult and a fully licensed driver shouldn’t we have the right to live under the same rules on the road? If years of experience make a difference between how well we drive after a drink then shouldn’t this law be based on the number of years of driving experience and not our age? The good intentions of this law do not make it any less discriminatory. Young people need to learn safe sex, not abstinence. Safe drinking, not prohibition. Education is far more valuable than illogical punishment for behavior that is considered responsible for the rest of society. I still would like to see the statistic that supports zero tolerance being safer that .05 tolerance. I frequently drive friends downtown. Enjoy one beer over an hour and drive home leaving them to cab home later. Otherwise someone would just drink and drive well over the limit both ways out of sheer convenience. I consider this to be a responsible way to prevent others from making bad decisions. The Ontario government sees it as illegal and dangerous.

  14. @ Teeves I must say you make some very good points. You are correct in saying that we all have the right to be treated equally under the law, but that’s quite a broad statement, and indeed the rules of the road are a little different; again, driving is a privilege. All new drivers in Ontario have to stay dry under the graduated license system for their first 20 months (at minimum), so really, this new regulation just pins an extended sober period on young drivers. While you can argue that this regulation isn’t fair, it certainly can be justified. It’s not fair that someone with a limited horizontal visual field may be denied a license, even if that person could potentially be a better driver than most others on the road. The increased likelihood that that individual could hurt him/herself or someone else on the road justifies denying him/her a license, even if it isn’t fair.

  15. Haha. Maybe McGuinty will have a lobby group give him a statistic that people 16-21 are 1.5 times as likely to be involved in a horizontal vision problem related accident. He would have no choice but to not let them drive until 22.

    There are many things that can be justified based on public safety. My concern with the law is not as much the zero tolerance as much as the age line. Make it zero tolerance for 3 years with the license system and this law moves from discriminatory to merely illogical (a big improvement in my mind). Thanks for the discussion though!

  16. Robyn, I made no reference to infringing on rights except arguably in the case of the health premium. For example:

    Muslims are (arguably) more likely to be involved in terrorist attacks involving aircraft. Flying is not a right. Therefore the government is justified in racial/religious profiling against Muslims attempting to board in aircraft. It could save a lot of lives.

    In the United States, at least, Mexicans are far more likely to be illegal immigrants than other visible minorities. Illegal immigration is not a right (neither is legal immigration, for that matter). Therefore the government is justified in profiling people of Mexican descent to ensure that they are legal immigrants.

    Men make more money than women. You don’t, strictly speaking, have the right to your earnings or property (thanks Trudeau!), hence the government is justified discriminatory taxation practices.

  17. Access to something need not be a right for it to be an injustice to selectively withhold it from people. For instance, I don’t have a right to eat at my local diner, but if I were to be denied service because of my race, my rights would still be violated. That’s because the right to be protected from discrimination extends to matters that don’t otherwise involve rights.

    That said, discrimination on the basis of age is a grey area, specifically because we nigh-universally agree that certain ages are indeed incapable of doing certain things responsibly (ie. 4 year olds voting), and because it’s not all that unequal in that everyone experiences the same period of certain things being withheld before they have access to them.

    However, in this case, it crosses a line. It’s fine to put restrictions on new drivers; that’s a class it is completely acceptable to discriminate against (in fact, that’s the point of creating the class), but to say that anyone under a certain age is incapable of driving with minor alcohol content responsibly is to do exactly the thing that makes discrimination bad: judging entire groups rather than individuals. Note that these are people above the age of 18: fully emancipated from the notion that they can’t meaningfully make their own decisions, and entrusted with the discretion to manage their own lives.

  18. I am writing to many people to gather their feelings on the new law of Zero Tolerance.

    Just think, I can wake in the morning. I have cold, I use a considerable amount of mouthwash, and then chase it with a couple of spoons of cough medicine.

    I head to work, early in the morning. A light is out on my left single, and I get pulled over.

    They smell alcohol. I do a breathalyzer and blow above the absolute ZERO…I am between the age of 16 and 22. I am a criminal. MTO revokes my license, and I am uninsurable.

    The Provincial Government is sending the people of Ontario in to Prohibition.

    In New York City and many other states in US, they have a scale. Ontario…sip…ZERO.

    We need changes.

    Young man goes to the tavern for a beer and a plate of fries after work. Social life is being taken away.

    I hope you pass this on to others as it is not fair.