Monday, November 24, 2008
There’s been quite a debate over Ontario’s latest move to further restrict the freedom of its younger citizens when it comes to driving privileges. Supporters tend to be parents and politicians (Dalton McGuinty: “If that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then, as a dad, I am more than prepared to do that ... We're going to take special steps, special measures, to protect our children."), while opponents, not surprisingly, tend to be the young drivers themselves (and quite a few parents, it must be said).
The proposed legislation combines drinking and driving restrictions (which virtually nobody opposes) with limits on the number of passengers young drivers may have in their vehicles. Under the current legislation, a G2 license holder faces restrictions on the number of passengers during the midnight to 5 a.m. period only. The new law, if passed, will restrict any under-20 G2-licensed driver to no more than one passenger aged 19 and under until they have had their G2 for at least one year (i.e. approximately 2 ½ years driving experience).
It’s this latter restriction that’s getting the most attention as opponents claim it will seriously curtail the ability of young people to have a designated driver, for example, when planning a night out. Car pooling to school, hockey practice, even church on Sunday will become illegal if more than one non-related passenger is in the vehicle. Age discrimination, pure and simple, the more polite say.
But there’s another, more serious issue at play here. As Robert Sibley points in Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen, these restrictions on young motorists may have such unintended consequences as removing “the requirement of responsibility from those most in need of acquiring it”. Dubbed infantilism, the concept is that by taking the ability away from people to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions (good or bad), we effectively encourage a continued level of immaturity in young adults.
But it seems to be a selective immaturity. It’s hard to reconcile such legislation with the fact that these very same young men and women are deemed old enough and mature enough to vote at 18; they are deemed old enough and mature enough to enter into binding legal contracts including, ironically, buying a car; they are deemed old enough and mature enough to get married and raise families; and they are deemed old enough and mature enough to fight, and die, on foreign soil for the very rights and freedoms which they are being denied by the nanny state back home.