Zero tolerance

As a measure to reduce carnage on roadways, the provincial government is set to pass legislation making it illegal for young drivers, 21 and under who drive with a graduated licence, to drink any amount of alcohol.

In addition to the alcohol policy, limits on number of passengers as well as tighter restrictions on speeding are becoming more punitive. In effect, these initiatives are attempts to regulate inappropriate behaviour.

Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. It sounds great to the untrained ear, hell-bent on making criminals pay. But, like most things in life, there is usually more to the story. The concept of innocent until proven guilty remains a basic principle in a democratic society, yet Canadians seem ready to abandon that right when their own freedoms are not in question. The day a zero-tolerance provision hits home however, look out.

There are many responsible young people today who choose not to drink and drive. If there is merit in not drinking at all when driving, then the same rules should apply to everyone. In fact, many people of our acquaintance have adopted that rule themselves, insisting that even one drink is not worth the grief associated with getting an impaired charge. The costs are enormous, financially and career-wise, when a drinking and driving charge occurs.

Speeding again, using a zero tolerance formula, places a heavy burden on officers in the field dispatched to uphold the law.

Possibly the worst part of the new rules is limiting passengers, where a responsible youth is taking co-workers home after a late-night shift at a part-time job. Most parents would find it troubling to have their son or daughter charged, when engaging in an act of common courtesy that takes place in businesses all over the province every day.

Premier Dalton McGuinty would be well advised to re-think imposing further zero-tolerance legislation. While every argument can be made that these rules will save lives, and we like that idea, innocent lives are harmed too, by laws that leave no room for judgment in the field.