It's been in the air for a while now, and nobody ever really took it seriously, but yesterday it got real: as of next April (approximate date), the Liberal government of Quebec is tightening up the Code de la Route to remove young adult's right to drive a vehicle with under 0.08 mg/L blood alcohol content (BAC), and will be enforcing a strict zero tolerance policy on alcohol for all drivers under 21. The media and those favorable to the mesure recommended by the Table québécoise de la sécurité routière are calling it an honest attempt a reducing mortality amongst the youth in road accidents, and a catch-up on what is being done in other provinces. I'm calling it yet another undue interference by the government and a perfect example of how the nanny state is restricting our freedoms and killing off the concept of personal responsibility.
I am not of the those libertarian, border-line anarchists a la Ron Paul who condemns every single attempt at regulation with one hand on the flag and the other on the heart, screaming for liberty. I am however, or so I like to think, a logical thinker, and to me, removing the rights to 0.08 BAC to what is legally considered adults here in Quebec is totally illogical. What becomes of young adults aged 18-21? Are they no longer true adults in the eyes of the law? I was raised to believed that a privilege always has a counterbalance of responsibility ; we are stripped of a privilege, what responsibility are you also taking away to compensate? From the time I turned 18, I was asked to jump through the hoops that every other adults has had to jump through, file my income taxes, pay my dues and contort through the maze of bureaucratic procedures relative to school and healthcare, why in hell would I not be considered like a lesser adult?
Pushed further, it becomes clear that the logic behind the Table's recommendations for the measure makes strictly no sense. De Konick defends this initiative by presenting statistics on automobile accidents saying that young people are more likely to cause fatality won the roads, in a way which doesn't directly correlate accidents in which young adults are involved and the presence of BAC less than 0.08. He says that since young drivers are more likely to get in an accident, young drivers under the influence of alcohol, even if minimal, is twice as dangerous. Nowhere does he mention that youth are more frequent offenders with regards to drunk driving. De Konick is adding 2 and 2 and getting 8. If young males are more at risk of getting in a fight, and if bars are statistically more violent places, does it make sense to restrict legal age for going out to 21, but for boys only? This asymmetry in the concept of adulthood is unacceptable, and I fear that giving in to such incongruent practices might set a precedent that would open the door for other such pieces of legislation.
I find it particularly funny that this measure is announced right after the Parti Quebecois has positioned itself in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 years old. Everybody has had this reflection: why is it that a teen can give his life to his country at 16 years of age in the US but can't purchase alcohol? "Stupidity is not exclusive to the youth," said Stephane Bergeron defend his party's orientation. I wholly agree... I've seen 40-some year old man-childs rake up DUI's just as much as I've seen friends take the wheel after a couple of drinks. Obey the law or go to jail if you get caught with solid proof, it should be that simple. In the end, the message that the adoption of this new legislation is sending out is that 18-21 year olds aren't responsible enough to be entrusted with things like the assessment of their capacity to drive. What other things aren't we responsible enough for? All this goes a long way in showing how Quebec's socialising tendencies are getting out of control. When your government starts putting more value in statistics and modelized analysis of risk factors for car accidents than in responsibilization of the youth, you know something has gone wrong.
Now that it has been announced, there pretty much is no going back, unless an election comes around very soon and aborts the adoption of the measure, which I hope it will. In the meanwhile, enjoy the times when you can still have a beer or two before going somewhere with your vehicle... because it'll most likely be gone to never come back.