Ontario promises tough love to keep young drivers safe

Legislation further restricting the rights of young drivers in Ontario was introduced and tabled at Queen’s Park today.

But the new measures, which will tighten the controls over alcohol consumption, speeding and the number of teenage passengers in a young driver’s car, already face a significant amount of opposition.

A press conference this afternoon at the Toronto Police headquarters, Minister of Transport Jim Bradley said the proposed laws are in the best interests of Ontarians.

“For people aged three to 33, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death,” Bradley said. “We need better laws to keep young drivers safe.”

The new law will mean that drivers age 21 and under will be legally bound to have a zero-blood alcohol level when behind the wheel.

Further, drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 will be allowed only one other passenger under the age of 19 in their vehicle at a time and sanctions for young drivers caught speeding are to be increased, beginning with a 30-day license suspension for the first offence.

Young drivers around Ontario are already expressing concern, despite the legislation being tabled this afternoon. A Facebook group called Young Drivers Against New Ontario Laws had 200 members within three hours of its creation and by the evening of Nov.18 had swelled to some 3,000 members.

“These restrictions all make sense aside from the limitations on the number of passengers allowed in a vehicle,” said one member of the group.

“This specifically goes against all common sense in a country where we should be focused on environmental and safety issues when it comes to transportation methods  . . .  this would seriously increase the number of drinking and driving incidents amongst this age group.”

While young drivers will face more restrictions should the legislation pass, Bradley said he does not think law concerning teenage passengers will dissuade young people from having designated drivers in place.

“I don’t think (the new laws will) discourage it,” said Bradley. “A lot of people will get someone a lot older. We’re trying to concentrate where we think we can have the most impact.”

Darryl Hoving, 19, is a second-year student at the University of Toronto. He believes the legislation will be less effective than it could be since it targets young drivers based on age and not experience.

“The way the graduated licensing system is set-up, it doesn’t matter if you’re starting (to drive) at age 16 or at age 40, you still have to go through the same process,” said Hoving. “Most of the concerns could be addressed by making a change to the graduated licensing system itself.”

Hoving agreed that limiting young drivers to just one teenage passenger in the car at a time would be taking the legislation too far.

“A lot of younger drivers do rely on carpooling for school and things like that,” Hoving said. “It will just put more cars on the road, which is unnecessary.”

An exemption to the law will be for teenage passengers that are family members of the driver. Andrew Murie however, Chief Executive Officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, said MADD welcomes the changes, warts and all.

“Our volunteers have been working relentlessly since 2000,” he said. “(The new laws) deal with the most risky road users out there  . . .  the legislation will mean less victims of drunk driving accidents and less people like the ones we’re (MADD Canada) trying to support.”