Overreaction or necessary changes?

November 27, 2008 at 8:26 pm Leave a comment

Last week new legislation that imposes stricter regulations for younger drivers was introduced in Ontario.  Since 1994 Ontario has had a graduated licensing system, but these new changes put greater limitations on young drivers.  Teenagers with their G-2 license must have a blood alcohol level of 0.00 when behind the wheel and cannot have more than one teenage passenger in the car with them at any time (with the exception of siblings).  There are also increased speeding penalties.

If young drivers are caught breaking any of this new legislation, their license is automatically revoked for 30 days, and jumps to 90 days for a second conviction and a complete loss of their licence for the third. For more information regarding the legislation changes, see here.

These changes have been brough about by a tragic accident this summer in cottage country.  Tyler Mulcahy (20, Kourosh Totonchian (19) and Cory Mintz (19) were killed when Mulcahy’s car crashed into a lake.  The friends had spent the afternoon consuming 31 drinks between them before getting into the car. 

Mulcahy’s father took out advertisements in major newspapers and created petitions, which led to him having a meeting with the Premier of Ontario.  As a direct result, the legislative changes were introduced November 18, 2008.  Since the introduction of the changed legislation there has been a major public backlash.  Letters to editor of the Toronto Star have poured in and petitions on Facebook have begun, and I can’t say I blame them.  As one parent put it, all young drivers are being punished because of the actions of a few. 

I’m all for stricter legislation when it comes to drinking and driving.  A zero tolerance policy should be applied to ALL drivers, not just young ones.  People are smart enough to know that it’s irresponsible and stupid to drink and drive.  We have been taught better, we know better.  We can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. 

In some instances, those who have been convicted of impaired driving have had their vehicles equipped with breathalizers, and if they have alcohol in their blood the car won’t start.  I just don’t understand why vehicle manufacturers and legislators haven’t taken advantage of this technology and made it a requirement in new cars, right up there with air bags. 

As far as speeding goes, Ontario introduced increased speeding fines and penalties earlier this year and as far as I’m concerned they are strict enough.  People already are punished by tickets, fines, increased insurance rates and in extreme cases vehicles are towed and licenses are suspended.  These fines and penalties apply to all drivers and I don’t think that young drivers need to be singled out any further. 

The limitation on the number of people who can be in a car should be limited to the number of seat belts in the car and shouldn’t be dependent on someone’s age.  The Ontario goverment thought it was a good idea to do away with OAC’s (Grade 13) and has resulted in some people as young as 17 being enrolled in college or university.  Apparently the government thought they would be mature and adult enough to be able to handle the rigors of post-secondary education and in most cases, living away from home for the first time.  Here you’re legally an adult at the age of 18 and have the right to vote and make your own decisions, you can legally drink at 19.  All along young people are being told that they are adults, that they need to grow up and be able to take responsibility for themselves and their actions and with one fell swoop the government has undermined what they have been trying to teach.

Students who carpool to and from school can no longer do so.  People can no longer act as a designated driver for a group of friends.  This legislation is taking a step back with regard to alcohol education and the notion to always use a designated driver as well as with regard to the environment and the fact that carpooling is an environmentally friendly option.  If these kids are mature enough to be going to school and living on their own, they are mature enough to decide who they can have in their vehicle.  We can’t keep telling teenagers that they are young adults and can make their own decisions while we take away their freedom inch by inch.

It’s unfortunate that Tyler Mulcahy, Kourosh Totonchian and Cory Mintz lost their lives but the rest of the province’s young people don’t need to be punished for their mistake.  And that’s just it – it was a mistake.  A mistake that resulted in an accident, a tragic one but at some point people need to take responsibility for their actions and realize that their actions have consequences.  At the age of 20 I knew that drinking and driving was wrong.  I knew that speeding was dangerous.  And so did those kids, but the fact of the matter is that a mistake led to an accident and we can’t all keep paying the price for that.

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