Law sends strong message: cops

Law sends strong message: cops

Motorists younger than 22 can’t have any alcohol in their systems
Slaw Magazine, May 19 2010

Aurora Banner

New impaired driving laws targeting young drivers will create a generation of designated drivers, York’s police chief said.

It will be illegal for drivers under 22 to have any alcohol in their blood while driving, the province announced this week. The changes take effect Sunday.

“I’d like to think it is conditioning an entire generation,” York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge said. “I support the legislation. I think the province has done something that is long overdue. I think it’s a strong message to individuals under 22 that you are not allowed to drink and drive at all.”

If the changes save one life, they will be worth it, he said.

Provincial research revealed 19, 20 and 21 are the peak ages for drinking-and-driving-related crashes and that those drivers are nearly 1-1/2 times more likely to be involved in  fatal and serious crashes.

In York Region, police have made 645 arrests for impaired driving so far this year and of those, 64 drivers, or about 10 per cent, havernment came from data collected and analysed by the Ministry of Transportation as it developed a safety policy, according to a ministry spokesperson.

Drivers younger than 21 caught with booze in their blood face an immediate 24-hour road-side licence suspension. Convictions can result in 30-day licence suspensions and fines up to $500.

Changes are also coming for drivers in the graduated licencing system who violate restrictions or if they are convicted of provincial driving offences carrying four or more demerit points.

Those penalties include licence suspensions to a maximum of 90 days and cancellation of a licence.

But for Thornhill resident Michael Silver, 18, the new law misses the mark.

Under no circumstances would he ride in a car with someone who had been drinking, he said.

“I believe that this is an unfair law in that it is discriminatory towards young drivers, however, it will make roads safer and therefore makes sense,” Mr. Silver said.

A Facebook group, Ontario Drivers Against the Zero-Alcohol Intolerance for Drivers Under 21, was established this week.

“Everyone 18 and over should have all the responsibilities and privileges of being an adult,” one entry read. “I hope that someone who gets caught takes this all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Criminal lawyer and certified breath technician Edward Prutschi called the new law a “politically expedient” attack on younger drivers. He suggested the policy is unlikely to result in backlash from the broader driving public, who will instead be happy young drivers are being made scapegoats for road carnage.

“If driving with any alcohol in your system is dangerous, then surely 60-year-old drivers ought to be prohibited in the same manner as 16-year-old drivers,” he said in an e-mail.

“I don’t feel any safer driving beside an intoxicated teenager on the way home from a party than I do pulling up beside a 50-year-old business executive who has just left the bar by his office after his seventh shot of (whisky).

“Either low blood-alcohol contents are a public safety danger or they aren’t. Age has little or nothing to do with it.”

He does agree, however, statistics that show a dramatically increased likelihood of younger drivers being involved impaired-related collisions are accurate.

Meanwhile, impaired driving charges decreased in the region last year.

York police recorded 1,181 impaired driving and related offences last year, down from 1,375 in 2008.

MADD’s local chapter president Kylee Goldman called the new law an important first step.

Warning young drivers about impaired driving early will lead to responsible choices later in life, she said, adding no one should drive after consuming alcohol.

The success of the legislation will hinge on parents talking to their kids about making responsible choices, said Pam MacDonald, the Young Drivers centre director for Newmarket, Aurora, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch-Stouffville.

She would like the zero-alcohol policy broadened beyond the under-22 criteria.

“If it were up to me, it should impact all new drivers,” she said.

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