Ontario to clamp down on young drivers

Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:09pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario, acting after a series of fatal traffic accidents that involved young people, on Tuesday said it would forbid those under 22 from driving if they had any alcohol in their system.

The province's Liberal government also said that draft legislation unveiled on Tuesday would limit the number of passengers that teenage drivers could transport.

Young drivers who break the new laws will have their vehicles impounded at the roadside.

"Motor vehicle collisions continue to cost us dearly ... inexperienced drivers are particularly at risk," Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said a news conference in Toronto.

Official statistics show that alcohol-related fatalities are the major cause of death in the 16 to 24 age group in Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

The legal drinking age is 19 and holders of permanent driving licenses are allowed to have 0.08 milliliters of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

One of the people who pushed for tougher rules was Tim Mulcahy, whose 20-year-old son Tyler was among three young people who died when their car crashed into a river in July. They had been drinking in a local restaurant.

"Saying zero is zero makes a lot of sense. People know that you can't cross the line. You're not going to have one (drink) because how many times does one lead to many more?" Mulcahy told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The youngest that people can drive alone in Ontario is 16. Young drivers are already banned from drinking and driving during their first two years behind the wheel, during which they only have provisional licenses. The new law would increase this qualification period to three years.

Late last month, the Ontario government unveiled a draft law to ban people from using cell phones and handheld communications devices such as BlackBerries while driving.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty)