Tuesday, December 23, 2008

McGuinty’s shortsighted driving restrictions

Column: McGuinty’s shortsighted driving restrictions unfair to families, young drivers

Tim Hudak, MPP From the Park Bench

It has been about a month since Dalton McGuinty announced his plan to impose new restrictions on young drivers in Ontario, and yet the public criticism of his shortsighted plan continues to pick up speed across the province.

The most contentious part of the McGuinty government’s Bill 126 – the Road Safety Act – has been a proposed restriction on drivers 19 years or younger that prohibits them from having more than one passenger (aside from a member of the immediate family) that is 19 years or younger in the car with them at all times.

The public outcry against this ill-conceived idea has stretched from the floor of the Ontario Legislature to the World Wide Web where more than 125,000 young people and parents have joined a group on the social networking site Facebook in protest.

It requires very little thought to understand why this legislation is out of touch with the lives of many families in Niagara and Hamilton. From the emails I have received on this subject to the comments posted on my Facebook page, I have heard plenty of examples to prove the point. Some of my favourites are:

• A 19 year old can qualify for a commercial pilot's licence and fly a plane full of teenage passengers, but under Bill 126 she is forbidden from driving more than one of them to the airport;

• A young soldier could drive an entire platoon in an armoured tank in Afghanistan but would be prevented from driving on Ontario roads with two 19-year-old passengers;

• A 19-year-old Brock University student or high school graduate with a full-time job can’t carpool to school or work with others his own age without breaking the law;

Another contentious part of Bill 126 unjustly punishes drivers under 22 years of age with 30 day to 90 day licence suspensions for minor infractions, such as rolling through a stop sign or exceeding the speed limit by 10 km, even for a first offence.

Instead of consuming the Legislature in debate on how many 19-year-old passengers should ride in a car together, Ontario families want a Premier who tackles the tough issues like the economy and violent crime and leaves the parenting up to the parents of Ontario.

I am circulating a petition through my Beamsville office (4961 King Street E, Unit M1) that calls on Premier McGuinty to scrap this ill-advised plan. To sign your name or obtain copies of the petition to circulate in your neighbourhood or school, come by the office during regular business hours, call 905-563-1755 or email timhudak@niagara.net.

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