Dear Dumkopfs:

So I get it. You just turned sixteen and you got a driver’s permit. Congratulations!

And in Ontario, the provincial government just instituted a new law that states that anyone under age 22 caught driving with **any** alcohol in their system will face fines, license suspension, and charges. They can avoid license suspension if they agree to having a breathalyzer thingummy that doesn’t let you start your car if you’ve any booze in your system (or, interestingly, if you’re diabetic, in some cases). I get that you feel that’s unfair.

I mean, far be it for me to trot out statistics, but I’m going to anyway…but I won’t use numbers. Because I’m on vacation and numbers are made of work. The fact is that folks under 22 make up a minority of drivers, but a rather shocking number of alcohol-related accidents. Hey, it’s frustrating. But listen…

When you say things like: “our parents had a lot more freedom to do what they wanted to do and maybe go have a couple of drinks and drive home after, so it’s not fair to us”, you are proving why people in Ontario have decided to pass this legislation.

As someone who, had I made Really Bad Decisions sixteen or twenty or twenty-two years ago, could be your mother, I can tell you that the number of times I “got to go and have a couple of drinks” before I was nineteen were fairly limited. Not that I wanted to. Because, as we’ve covered previously, I was (and am) a nerd. I can also tell you that the number of times I went and “had a couple of drinks and then drove home” between the ages of nineteen and twenty-two (when it was legal for me to HAVE a couple of drinks period) I don’t think I can even count on two fingers. And not because I can’t count to two.

Honest to Christ, if I had *any* idea how bloody brain-damaged I sounded when I was sixteen, I’d have shot myself in the ankles. You know what? I think I *did* have an idea how brain-damaged I sounded when I was sixteen. I remember once having a big fight with my mother when I was fourteen, and I screamed out : “IT’S NOT FAIR! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A KID!!!” and she started to laugh. Really, really hard. And I get that now.

It’s not that we don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. We remember all too well. That’s the problem. What we’ve *forgotten* is what our stupid fights were about. Do you know why we’ve forgotten that stuff? Because it’s not important. In the long run, if you’re really seriously thinking that it’s an INFRINGEMENT ON YOUR HUMAN RIGHTS for the government not to allow you to DRINK AND DRIVE, then write to your MP. By all means, write to your MLA. Oh, what’s that? You don’t even get to *vote* for another two years? That’s okay. Your opinion is still important. Can’t get off your butt to write a letter to your MLA? Quit whining.

Here’s the thing: when was the last time you, as a teenager, showed, or witnessed any of your OMG BFFs! show restraint? Moderation? When was the last time you (or one of your closest friends) decided you DIDN’T want the newest gadget, the pinkest fantubler, the sickest longboard? Show me a twenty-year-old with the ungodly power of their own vehicle in their own hands who decides to have *no* alcohol *because it’s the wise, right thing to do* at a party rather than have just one or just two, and I will show you a twenty-year-old who chose a long time ago not to drink at all.

The fact is, kiddos, that you’re invincible. Like Achilles, you cannot be taken down. You’re immortal and untakedownable. Except for that one tendon. Unlike Achilles, though, that tendon is your prefrontal cortex (it’s hardly entirely your fault; your hormones are making you kind of stupid) and not your heel.

Anyway. It’s not unfair. And your parents didn’t have the right to go out and have a few drinks and then drive home. If they *chose* to do that, they chose unwisely. Look, your parents wouldn’t be asking for legislation to help protect you if you were willing to preserve your own well-being. I know, I know…I’m becoming a complete hardass in my doterage. I don’t understand you. I don’t understand that all you want to do is let off some steam and get drunk once in a while. I don’t understand how sometimes you don’t mean to have a few drinks; it just kind of happens. I don’t get how you need to be treated like an adult. How it’s not fair. I don’t get any of that.

(But I have a secret: I *do* get that. Here’s my secret – I’m a little surprised that I am, as they say, pushing 40. In my head, I’m still somewhere between eighteen and twenty five, but smarter. It surprises the hell out of me nearly every day that I’m over 32. In fact, I’m still a little flabbergasted that I’m allowed to play with toys with small parts.)

You may be right. It may not be fair. But I’d like to invite you to think about it in the OF* manner: What’s not fair is coming home after a weekend at the beach to have your mother phone you to tell you that one of your good friends was taken home in three body bags. What’s not fair is having to bury your children before they get to be treated like adults. What’s not fair is your sister(s) and/or brother(s) having to do alone all those things you planned to do together. What’s not fair is your girlfriend/boyfriend feeling like it’s their fault because they didn’t stop you. What’s not fair is when you have to live for the rest of your life (and believe you me, when you’re sixteen, twenty-five feels a long, long way off, when you’re thirty-eight, sixteen feels like spit in the ocean compared to what you still have left)  knowing that you killed someone because you made one stupid choice that you knew better than to choose.

So sure, it’s unfair. It’s unfair that your ability to make those decisions isn’t trusted. It sucks that you have to wait *even longer* to drink and drive. That really, really sucks. Boy. You know what’d be a good idea? Become a statistician, a nurse, or an EMS when you grow up, and feel free to change it. Also: members of the gender in which you are interested prefer it WHEN YOU BATHE, sweetheart.

*Old Fart

  8 comments for “Dear Dumkopfs:

  1. turk182@shaw.ca
    26 July 2010 at 8:10 pm

    look at all those words

  2. Wade L
    26 July 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Sadly, I’ve got to side with the kids here partially, at least for the ones over 18. A 20 year old is still an adult in every meaningful sense – there are plenty of 20 year olds who are married and raising families. The extra restriction does seem an indignity. Yeah, sure, they aren’t as mature as someone a decade older – but I’m sure there are 50 year olds who sigh and shake their heads at the mid-life crises of 40 year olds and say “They’ll learn when they’re my age…”

    Granted, I personally think we’d be better off if we just picked an age as a country and made that the limit for everything. 16 to drive, 18 to smoke, 19 to drink(in Saskatchewan), 16 for sex(barring close age exemptions), 17 to enlist in the military(with parental permission), 18 to vote, etc. Simplifying it all would be beautiful(I, personally, would just go with 16, but that is me :) ).

    BUT, if we are going to start restricting driving based on age, I do think there is a very good arguement to be made for occasional mandatory driving tests or re-certifications for drivers *over* a certain age. I think we all have at least one elderly relative that really should not be driving anymore, but refuses to give up their licsence.

    • turk182@shaw.ca
      26 July 2010 at 8:55 pm

      We have a saying in the movement that we don’t trust anybody over 30.

    • 27 July 2010 at 10:17 am

      The extra restriction only pertains to consuming alcohol. Not to driving itself. In fact, I think that’d be good legislation for EVERYONE, not just for the yoots.

      I agree with you though, that there ought to be one age of ‘maturity’. I certainly wouldn’t put it at sixteen. I’d put it at eighteen. You should be able to vote, drive, drink, join the army, and marry whoever you want when you’re eighteen. Just when you’re on the cusp of actually being physically mature, just when you’ve begun to learn stuff…that’s the time when you ought to have access to all of those privileges at once.

      But yeah. I also agree that after age 80, folks probably ought to have driver’s tests every two to five years.

      I just can’t bring myself to think that doing away with legal alcohol limits while driving a four thousand pound death machine is a bad thing.

  3. Wade L
    27 July 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I totally agree that implementing zero tolerance for alchol when driving is a fine idea. I would be in favour of that. I just can’t see much reason for banning it for some adult but not others. Honestly, I could even justify a ban on drinking and driving for, say, five years after you first get your licsence(whether that is at 16 or at 36) if you have to put it in, but making it age based seems silly.

    As for a general age of maturity – 18 just seems a bit too old. But 16 too young. Since governments love bureaucracy, I wouldn’t mind seeing something graduated – you get on set of privledges at 16, and then the rest at 18. For instance, drinking allowed in resturaunts before 11pm at 16, but full privledges only coming at 18. Things like that. Then at least there would be only two ages, and hopefully a gradual introduction of privledges.

    • 27 July 2010 at 5:32 pm

      I don’t think the age-based thing is arbitrary at all. Studies (they’ve done STUDIES!) show that drivers under the age of 25 have the most accidents (and the most serious accidents) of any other age group. Interestingly, males under age 25 are at the highest risk of being in serious accidents (many of which involve the use of alcohol); I think the next group is males age 26-35, then females under 25, then males age 46-65, etc., etc., etc.. So I don’t think the “age 22” thing is completely arbitrary.

      F’rinstance, in other provinces, it costs WAY more money to license and insure your vehicle if you have someone under age 25 driving it. WAY more. Like, double. Or, sometimes, triple, what people age 40+ pay.

      18 seems YOUNG to me. But I am, as previously stated, recently accepted into the OF school of thought. That being said, why fart around with different privileges for different age groups? What a bureaucratic pain in the kiester. Just one ‘age of majority’ should be fine.

  4. Wade L
    27 July 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I just don’t like the path that legislating based on demographic studies leads down. The age 22 thing isn’t completely arbitrary, but applying it to 22 year old female before applying it to 26 year old males does say something about it. :) There are a whole host of other areas that I don’t want the government deciding certain demographic groups have more restrictions or harsher penalties because “[Group A] are much more likely to be responsible for [Crime X]”. Like, that is a bad path, obviously.

    I DO think the law would be perfectly fair if it was for “X years after you obtain your license”, as I said. Even better if that time is reset by getting traffic tickets – I would be willing to be that “number of moving violations within the past year” is even more accurate at predicting who is at highest risk for a DUI accident, and it ain’t like the government don’t track that. ;)

    • 27 July 2010 at 8:31 pm

      I don’t have that much of a problem with some forms of legislation being based on demographics, provided there is ample evidence indicating that particular demographic may be better served by the legislation. F’rinstance, legislation that targets certain types of offenders based on their demographics.

      I like the idea that your license is restricted until you reach, say, 25, but that for every year that you have an *exemplary* driving record, you get one year taken off that restriction, and for every driving infraction, you have five years put back on that restriction. As for the number of moving violations within the past year, that would also include speeding, running red lights, and changing lanes without using your indicator light. By that reasoning, nearly every driver in Saskatoon ought to be put on the list.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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