Zero-alcohol limit a good idea for young drivers - Macleans.ca

Zero-alcohol limit a good idea for young drivers

Restrictions for drivers under 22 is strategic, not discriminatory

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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