Double standards are not considered fair in many areas of life. But when it comes to drinking and driving, Ontario has unapologetically drawn up two standards for licence holders: one for drivers 21 and under, and one for older drivers. If you are 21 or under, and you are found to have alcohol in your system, your driver’s licence will be suspended immediately for 24 hours. You will face a fine of up to $500 and a 30-day licence suspension.
A second offence could result in a suspension for 90 days. A third offence could mean losing the licence altogether. The province’s standard is about as tough as any in Canada.
There’s a reason for this Zero Tolerance stance: drivers in the 19 to 21 range are much more likely than older drivers to be involved in fatal crashes and injuries as a result of drinking and driving. Little wonder, when one considers:
- Younger drivers are not good drivers in most senses. While their vision, hearing and reflexes might be top-notch, they lack experience and judgement, which are more important to safe driving, and usually are less aware of the rules of the road.
- As well as being inexperienced drivers, teenagers are inexperienced drinkers, and are likely to drink more at any given time, and thus be more impaired.
- Teens and other young people have an exaggerated sense of invincibility, and are prone to taking risks. Alcohol only exacerbates this behavior, which makes it deadly in the extreme.
Strong penalties are needed so that young people get the idea fast: you cannot drink and drive. Any drinking at that age could start a habit that would end tragically on the road. That’s why Ontario does whatever it takes, and if that includes a double standards for 21-and-unders, then so be it.