Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ontario Cracks Down on Carpooling

Drinking and driving is bad.

That is what the province of Ontario would have you think when it introduced new legislation last week to tighten the rules for young drivers in an effort to better improve the safety of our roads and highways. You can read about the story in various newspapers such as The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Before I dive into my take on this issue, I must be clear that I am against drinking and driving for ALL ages and also believe that government should be active in drawing up social policy such as this. Essentially, the new legislation, Bill 126, as proposed would require that every novice driver and young driver (under age 22) not have any alcohol in his/her blood while driving. If these rules are broken, a heafty minimum fine of $60 will be imposed and a 30 day licence suspension as well.

But, is the government really interested in decreasing drinking and driving on our roads? I would argue that the government is not doing enough and should impose a rule requiring that no alcohol be in ANY driver's blood, regardless of age. By not doing this, the government is simply picking on young drivers and not addressing drunk driving in all age groups. As it stands, any G licensed driver can have a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. According to the SmartServe alcoholic beverage service training program, I could consume 5 drinks in an hour and still be under the legal limit. Would I do this and then drive? Absolutely not.

I would argue that the provincial government is trying to make political hay out of a tragedy that occurred this past summer and to save money. How is this plausible? I read comments made by Minister of Transport Jim Bradley. After introducing the bill in the Ontario Legislature, he states that "motor vehicle collisions in Ontario still add up to about $18 billion annually in health care and social costs." So forget about saving lives and making Ontario a better place to live; passing this bill will save money!! Before these statements, the Minister said that Ontario has the safest roads in Canada.

So, is the government going too far? I think the comments made by fellow MPPs regarding Bradley's comments have some substance. John O'Toole of the Progressive Conservatives calls McGuinty out on making political hay by saying, "I would say that this seems like a bit of a photo op in some respects." Gilles Bisson, MPP for the New Democratic Party says what people need to hear: "we can't legislate everything. There comes a point where individuals have to take responsibility."

If the government can't legislate everything, then what should be done?
Two things that can be done better:

1) putting more police officers on patrol is a great idea. It will create jobs and catch more drunk drivers and those driving while suspended under strong legislation that we currently have.

2) update the driver training curriculum. I remember when I took driver training we used this old textbook entitled Road Worthy published in 1985. The tests that we wrote were photocopies of old multiple choice tests that were written with a typewriter. Folks of Ontario will likely recall the Annual Report (2007) of the Auditor General of Ontario pointing out the lackadaisical approach to regulating beginner driver education in Ontario.

What implications will this new law have for students at Nipissing University and elsewhere? If you have a G2 licence, you would not be able to carry more than one passenger under the age of 19 in your vehicle all day and all night. This means that you would not be able to carpool with teenaged friends to and from school, sports events, the movies, or even on trips home during study weeks and other holidays. The licensing period would also be increased; it will take you 3 years to get a G licence instead of 20 months. Students can enter university as young as 17 upon graduation from high school (one of my first year roommates was 17) and this legislation will affect them.

The Ontario government can be doing a good job only if it focuses on fixing things that aren't broken.


fineskylark said...

This puts me in a very awkward position. I'm 27 years old, but only have a G2 license. All of these measured aimed at teenagers will also apply to me.

The speeding one has me particularly worried. It seems like a huge over reaction to me.

Anonymous said...

It will also discourage designated drivers, in my opinion, for youth who risk heft fines for carrying more than one passenger under the age of 19 in their cars... while I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of putting the hammer down on drunk drivers, I feel this legislation takes it that one step too far.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget another reason the government introduced this - so that insurance companies can make even more money. They will pay out less in claims, and yet still charge hefty premiums for young drivers.

Ashlee said...

i think this law is ridiculous. i was readding the toronto star,(if u like to read it its... last week online and this can up. a story about a father pressing for the govern't to change the driving laws for young drivers, at first i felt bad for this father then the thought kicked in my mind. it was his son choice to do what he did, personal after a coupe of drinks i wouldnt have gotten behind the wheel but his son did, making a huge mistake. because of his son choices the whole provice of ontairo shouldnt hold young drivers at fault with this law.
the govern't and the parents of young drives could be doing much more and useless things, my parents taught me not to get in the car after a drink but to call a cab instead cuz your life is worth more, as for the govern't i would have to ask did any common sense when in to creating this law?
no carpooling, i understand the zero alcohol level but no more the one passger under 19, when i was 17/18, and all my friends had their g2 the car was always full and everone was under 19!
i think this could be a good law if it when back to the drawing board and the govern't remembered what it was like when they first had their licence, its not all bad... just need more work to improve this bill and have everyone some what pleased

Bliss said...

I see that there is a discrepancy with the government's attitude toward drunk driving. On one hand, young drivers are not permitted to have alcohol in their bodies prior to driving but on the other hand the government rewards class 'G' drivers with the ability to have booze in their bodies at 0.08%. Mixed in with this mess is MADD Canada proclaiming that any level of alcohol in your blood while driving is bad.

So, why doesn't the government just come clean and ban alcohol consumption prior to driving for all drivers? This would clear up the age discrepancy mess and as you have suggested cut down drunk driving incidents in all age groups.

Idiocracy said...

If McGuinty is going to use statistics to back up his reasons for making accidents occur less frequently on roads, how about this?

According to Table 3.10 of the 2004 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 77.2% of fatal collisions occur under clear visibility conditions.

Therefore, driving during clear conditions should be banned because that is when most accidents occur.

Anonymous said...

This proposed law is a good one in that it will save lives. Is saving lives not more important than saving gas with the lame argument of carpooling? The parental law in my household still stands -- if one of offspring drives my car, insured on my policy, then they will not have more than one passenger. And, they will not ride in another vehicle if there is more than one passenger. Why? Because statistics show that young drivers are distracted. Young passengers goof off and distract the driver. Two examples: teen passengers in a van started rocking the van by their exaggerated motions. The teen driver lost control. Two girls were ejected and killed. Five youths in one vehicle were driving to a hockey practise. The driver lost control in a snow storm (hockey's not worth it). All five died. The proposed law may have saved at least three lives, perhaps all five in the hockey players' crash.

That's why I have my personal rule. I don't approve of carpooling. Young drivers are too inexperienced and too easily distracted. Youths, you had better like it because we're doing this (new law) because we want you around for a long, long time.

I'm all for it.

Big Green Giant said...

Older adults get distracted easily too. Don't believe me? Read this article published in The Star:

A study was conducted by neuroscientists on older adults. The study "suggests older brains process more irrelevant information from the environment, such as an irritating background noise, than the brains of younger adults."

So nevermind teenagers cramming into a car and bounding down the highway. Grandma and Grandpa should be restricted to only one passenger, keep the radio off, and not drive in Toronto. When drafting legislation, shouldn't we look at the research?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry too much about grandparents getting behind the wheel as we have a quasi law to deal with them. Yes, they have to pass a written test at age 80 to retain their driving privileges. Unfortunately that only tests their mental capabilities. So, if old folks are able to process more irrelevant information, that could suggest they have better driving skills. Youths, obviously can't process irrelevant information, and that's why we have to protect them when they're driving ... so they get some practice and learn how to react.

Really, I don't buy the fact young drivers are really, really serious about car pooling, and that argument. It's about cruising! They want to cruise with their friends. I should know. I was one of them once upon a time. Fortunately I made it through those dangerous years and live to write you this note.

While we're on the topic of 'what's good for you', the province should come out with a law that bans parents from buying their kids video games. Video games are addictive kid killers.

Big Green Giant said...

Old folks aren't able to process more irrelevant information; they are distracted by it. The research shows that younger drivers are better able to deal with distractions. But I digress.

All other issues aside, it still surprises me that current "G" licensed drivers are awarded with being able to drink and then drive; as long as they're under the legal limit, of course. I maintain my assertion: if the government truly desired to cut down on drinking and driving accidents, then having any level of alcohol in your blood while driving would be prohibited for all drivers. After all, it takes just one drink to impair judgement. A drunk 50 year old is just as dangerous behind the wheel as a drunk 20 year old.

Anonymous said...

So McGuinty blinked and backed down. I suppose that means we in the media will be forced to report the tragic loss of carloads of youths, as we have been forced to report in the last few years. Happy cruisin'!

Big Green Giant said...

Or, you could keep doing what you are doing now and report on drunk driving accidents for all age groups - including the Muskoka teen crash incident that seemed to spark this legislation. Or you could report on motorists who have suspensions; 75% of whom drive while suspended.

Perhaps you could write an editorial arguing the need for more police officers on our roads to enforce existing laws rather than praising baby boomer legislators for their ageism.

Anonymous said...

And that reminds me of the loss of four babyboomers in Ripley in the mid-1960s. Four kids were killed when they tried to run a train on their way to hockey practice. Had the (now dead) law been in place way back when, we'd at least still have two babyboomers around today to enjoy life.