Ontario student challenges “discriminatory” drunk driving law - Macleans.ca

Ontario student challenges “discriminatory” drunk driving law

Law requires drivers under 22 to maintain zero blood alcohol content


Kevin Wiener, a 20-year-old student at the University of Western Ontario, has filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to challenge anti-drunk-driving legislation that he says discriminates based on age. The new legislation requires Ontarians under 22 years old to have no alcohol in their blood while driving. The law is in addition to laws already on the books that punish drivers of all ages whose roadside blood-alcohol content is above 0.05. Wiener says the rules, which allow for 24-hour roadside suspensions, plus fines of up to $500 and 30-day suspensions, violate the Canadian Carter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects against age discrimination. Ontario’s Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said the law is necessary because drivers aged 19-21 who are involved in crashes are 1.5 times more likely to have some level of alcohol in their blood.

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Ontario student challenges “discriminatory” drunk driving law

  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't people involved in crashes more likely to have alcohol in the blood no matter what the age?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for zero tolerance in terms of alcohol and driving (frankly, I think it would be better for drivers to just cut out the guesswork).

  2. I don't see this law surviving challenge. Either raise the legal driving age, or consider lowering the allowable blood alcohol threshold to zero or near-zero for all drivers. I'd be open to the latter.

    • Or, instead of applying the rule only to certain ages, apply it to all drivers with less than (5) years experience. When you consider that most* new drivers are 16-21, it's effectively the same law.

      *I have no idea if this is true or not, it's just a gut feeling. How many people don't get their license until later in life (excluding immigrants, but I don't know if they are treated as new drivers or not)

      • In essence, extend the graduated nature of the license. Very smart. Why can't McGuinty solicit good ideas like that?

        (I believe Canada has reciprocal agreements with most of the world to recognize foreign drivers' licenses.)

        (I also still favour an across the board ban for any drinking and driving, but your idea would be my second choice).

      • That's how it works in B.C. New drivers, regardless of age, are required to have a blood alcohol level of 0. New drivers, at any age, are at a much higher risk of accident. Makes sense really; it takes time and experience to become a good driver.

  3. Haven't age-based laws like this gone before the court before and survived? The reasoning, as I understand it, is that age discrimination is not like other forms of discrimination as it is not acting on a static group. everyone is under 22 at some point in their life.

    That being said, basing the rule on driver experience makes more sense than age.

  4. Yes it's discriminatory. Sometimes discrimination makes sense.

    We also discriminate against those under 16 by not letting them drive, those under 18/19 by not letting them drink in pubs or buy cigarettes, those under 25 who are often not permitted to rent cars, and males who pay extra for insurance compared to females.

    These are all reasonable discrimination based on the perceived responsibility of each category with respect to the activity. Having known a fair number of college students, I'd suggest this is also quite reasonable.

    • Your two examples past the age of majority are not examples of government discrimination but rather the government not involving itself in the discrimination of others. If you continue defending the nanny state you may lose that your membership in the Libertarian society.

    • No we dont

      1) Not discrimination. those under 16 are not adults where as this law applies to legal adults over 18
      2) 18 for cigarettes and lottery tickets (thats right right?) – at this age they become adults (see a pattern?)
      3) 19 year old drinking age – possibly also age discrimination yet nobody has the time or effort to challenge it
      4) Car rental is not under the jurisdiction of the Charter and neither are insurance companies its provinicial legislation

      none of these except the drinking age is discrimination and as I said there is a good case for that. If you look at the shaky states provided you'll see this law isnt based in fact also if it were proven that all asian drivers fit the stereotype of being bad drivers (as people view young adults) would it then be reasonable to levy these laws on at asian peolpe? Of course not that would be discriminatory – so is this

      • To bad this is discriminatiory, It would probably save some young peoples lives, but Kevin Wiener does does have a right to file an application of discrimination…If Mr. Weiner ''wins'' his case, Is it really a Victory ??

    • I agree with Sean that this probably cannot hold up to challenge. Admittedly, the law of discrimination in Canada is a shambles, so it's hard to prove this definitively. However, generally speaking, discrimination occurs where there is both a distinction on the basis of an enumerated ground (in this case, age), and where that distinction would lead to the perpetuation of a disadvantage, prejudice or stereotype. The problem with the law is that it's not based on actual biological differences (21 year olds are not inherently less responsible than 25 year olds, for example), and tends to stereotype to the effect that 18-22 year olds are less competent/responsible drivers than 23-25 year olds, for example. That may be true, on average, but it's not necessarily so.

  5. Dalton gives Insurance Industry a massive win Again!!!!!
    What is so hideous about this new law that allows police officers to target young driver for having even a tiny bit of booze in their system is just a pure and simple cash grab by the insurance industry.

    Lets assume a driver under 22 has a cough, he takes a little medication containing tiny quantities of alcohol, gets pulled over and blows .00001, his license gets suspended, car gets towed. The driver then challenges the charges in court and wins. Ah thank god it's over right.

    Wrong, the problem just begins, when the insurance policy comes up for renewal and the insurance company discovers that the driver has an alcohol related offence suspension, the young drive finds he will no longer be insured, in order to drive he will be forced to facility insurance where getting coverage can cost up to 20,000 per year.

    The law masquerades as a safety measure when in fact it is engineered as clever immoral cash grab.

    • I agree with you. The law should be struck down and thrown to the trash heap. It penalizes young people excessively and unfairly because of the irresponsibility of the few. The vast majority of young people are targeted by this law for no reason.

  6. First off, breath-analysers are not that sensitive. Second, insurance for that age group should LOWER in Ontario compared to the rest of North America as they are held to a highr standard of safety.

    If the price of driving a private vehicle is too high, because of gas, insurance, or parking, I suggest taking public transit and you don't have to worry about having a drink.

  7. Fight the liberals, kid. They deserve to lose.

  8. Thankfully someone is taking up the fight against this stupid law! Speaking as a 19 year old, I believe that this law will actually cause more drinking and driving over the 0.08 limit. Firstly, it does nothing do discourage the people that already drink and drive, the ones out killing people. Furthermore, this limits the ability for young drivers to DD for others after one or two drinks. I frequently drive friends downtown and have one beer with them before driving home, leaving them to cab home later. One beer has zero effect on my driving skills, and no I would not be satisfied with a soda water. If I did not drive, someone would just jump in their car wasted and drive both ways. This is punishing young people for behavior that is considered responsible for the rest of society. We need tougher enforcement and better education. Not illogical and discriminatory legislation.

    • You should not be having 2 drinks then being a DD. This law is unfortunately necessary because people think the way you do. If you want to have a beer or two take a cab.

      • You're a moron. One or two beers will not affect you're driving ability at all, and this has been proven beyond any doubt. Why should legal adults not be allowed to do something when there is literally no health risk to themselves or others?

        • Jack, I really don't think '' health risk'' is the issue here, But then again having someone plowing into me after consuming alcohol could be hazardous to my health ! Yes?

          • I believe the idea is perhaps something like this: I frequently go to my grandmothers for dinner, and being a German family, it's customary to have beer with dinner. If I have 1 beer, it's likely to still hang around in a very small quantity for hours. As an adult, this is discrimination, plain and simple. Not to mention, the introduction of this law makes driving even stricter than the US, who at 16 have full driving privileges including having a BAC of less than 0.05%, and of course they shouldn't be drinking till 21 there. This means that at 21 a driver can have a drink, and I still can't. The amount of bills and treaties that violate human rights are increasing these days, they must be overturned.
            I'll gladly sign a petition against this, and hope my kids don't have to see this type of thing.

  9. no one should be allowed to drink and drive – zero tollerance. On the news this morning it said that under 22s were involved in 30% of the alcohol related accidents – now let me think – 100% – 30% means 70% of the accidents are over 22s – does that not answer the question. Cars are powerful machines and do not cause accidents if well maintained – it is the driver. NO ALCOHOL – ZERO TOLLERANCE.
    As you can tell I agree and support Kevin 100% – the law is right except for the age group

    • HAH! I find it amusing they'd report this as defense for the law. People under 22 make up approximately 30% of the population. This would suggest that under 22's are just as likely to be in an alcohol related accident as people 22+.

      I'm not one for zero tolerance per se, since it causes the issue of using mouthwash or cold medicine setting off the detector. Or as I mentioned in a previous comment; the issue of a very innocent drink with dinner, a glass of wine even. Perhaps a lower limit, maybe 0.03.

      That being said, many people (particularly large people) will register on the breathalyzer much higher than their actual motor impairment. This is of course because the digestive tract will be similar in large to small people, but the actual BAC will be vastly different.

      The limit being at 0.05% makes a compromise between the 2 extremes of body types, and if a very small person is intoxicated at 0.03% they should either know better to stay off the road, and if anything else; get stopped for dangerous driving.

    • The Zero tolerance thing is going a little too far.
      There are a lot of medications (inhalers) and things like gum, mouth wash, and foods like poppy seeds that will cause you to get over zero. A girl here had to fight it in court because she had a bagel with poppy seeds on it for breakfast, 2 hours before she was targeted in a Ride Program.
      I can understand 0.05% but at zero, it's getting ridiculous.
      The law is ridiculous regardless of age.
      Just because these people got 0.05% doesn't mean it was always because of alcohol use.

  10. In a perfect world we would be able to deal with all those impairments, but it is easier to test BAC than "emotional distress." I'm not a zero-tolerancer, but I do fear that our current laws encourage people to push the limit – "surely I won't be impaired after 3 drinks…" Maybe going down to .05 is the answer, or maybe it's zero tolerance for new drivers, I don't know.

    It's pragmatic to me. It's wrong to drive impaired. We can't easily address all impairments, but we should deal with the ones we can address, like drinking and driving.

    Also, there are always police resource issues, and the biggest thing we can probably do is get more serious on those who are caught. I'd rather take licenses away (for a long time) from everyone caught with .08 or higher than have the police spending their time catching people who've had one drink.

  11. if we suspended someones license for longer periods of time for drinking over the limit then the insurance companies wouldnt benefit from someone else misfortune.I hope this law gets what it deserves and is recinded based on discrimination ,this government is run by dictators and is forcing these stupid laws when in reality they are tax grabs

  12. This is just one more of our rights being flushed down the toilet.Do any of you believers in this law think this will do anything?
    You think Junior wont drink a 26er and borrow moms BMW and go kill some of his friends and some innocent family because of these new laws? This is ludicrous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I to was 18-21 once and made the conscious decision not to get impaired and drive. I think that the majority of people would make the right decision.
    We have become sheep,sitting back letting lobby groups and government officials tell us what is right and wrong.
    This issue does not effect me directly but I can no longer remain silent as it is one step closer to total Government control!!!!……………….But it is for our better good …….Right?

  13. 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.

  14. To anyone that believes this law is legitimate… you’re wrong.  It should be based on driver experience and license possession; never age.  The person with a G license and with at least 5 years of driving experience should be entitled to a 0.05 blood alcohol level and be able to carpool friends.  That being said, the person must ensure that this usually only consists of maybe one beer or one mixed drink and an hour before trying to operate their motor vehicle so they aren’t trying to be a hero or operate the vehicle while the alcohol gets into the bloodstream. 

    If you don’t agree with my statements, I don’t see how someone that gets their G1 when they are 20, then their G2 when they are 21, and then their G at 22 should be allowed to drink and drive (with less than 3 years driving experience) when I got my g1 at 16, my g2 at 17, and my G at 18 and I have been driving for 5 years and am currently 21.  Good law?  I think not…