Their world has always had the Internet, Bluetooth, and the Fast and the Furious franchise. They’ve never used a pay phone, rented a dvd, or looked up a number in a phone book. And their parents, teachers, and others of earlier generations don’t always know what’s on the mind of the people who are being labeled Generation Z.
Which is why the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail decided to find out. The paper conducted a national online survey to find out the attitudes of people born around the millennium, who are just coming of age now. One of those findings is of interest to us: though they don’t abstain from alcohol, 97 percent of said they never drink and drive.
Of course, what 97 percent of teenagers say and what 97 percent do might well be different, but it still bodes well for the future. Drunk driving is unfashionable enough that teens are telling surveys that they’re not interested in it.
The attitude change has been a gradual one, beginning perhaps when drunk driving was entered into the Criminal Code back in the mid-20th Century. Back then you were likely to spend at most a night in jail, sleeping it off. People joked about how they barely made it home, they were so drunk.
The generation that came of age in the 1980s knew more about the dangers of drunk driving, thanks to the work of road safety organizations dedicated to changing public attitudes. But the people of Generation X were surrounded by holdouts from an earlier era. So peer pressure and the example of older adults worked against the goal of eliminating drunk driving.
Things kept getting better, and Generation Z has been raised by people who realize (for the most part) that drunk driving is potentially lethal. While young people (age 20 – 24) are still more likely to be involved in alcohol-related collisions than any other group, those rates are gradually declining, thanks in part to greater awareness on the part of drivers themselves. Other factors include better law enforcement, stronger laws, and ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers).
Labeling generations and assigning opinions to them is not terribly accurate, and we don’t need to take the results of one newspaper poll as an indication of the way all Canada is going.
But what if it is? The kids on the cusp of adulthood this year – Generation Z – don’t seem to miss dial phones or typewriters. Perhaps they, or their children, won’t miss drunk driving either.