May 21, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following op-ed article was prepared by Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John W. Foran:
FREDERICTON (CNB) - All drivers in our province want to be safe, but there are still far too many accidents on our roads. As a result, the Government of New Brunswick is making important changes to the rules for young and new drivers.
Our ongoing commitment to safer roads and highways is at the forefront of any decisions we make about motor vehicle issues. As such, before bringing any changes to government for consideration, we look at best practices in other jurisdictions, and we take into account any research done in North America and throughout the world.
We carefully researched best practices in other jurisdictions as well as numerous statistical reports from Transport Canada, MADD Canada, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, the European Union, and others.
All research showed that a disproportionate number of collisions involving inexperienced drivers involve one or more of three high-risk factors:
Furthermore, an April 2008 study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (http://www.tirf.ca), the leading authority in Canada on traffic statistics, showed that road crashes are the leading cause of death among young people in our country.
More than 700 young people (aged 15 - 24) are killed each year in road crashes in Canada, and a further 50,000 are injured, many seriously. These totals include about 350 teens (aged 15 - 19) killed and 24,000 injured, as well as 350 deaths and 26,000 injuries for people aged 20 - 24.
The deaths and injuries have to stop, and the changes being introduced will directly target these contributory factors.
Therefore, as of June 1, all drivers younger than 21 must maintain a zero blood alcohol count. Getting new drivers into the habit of completely separating the acts of drinking and driving will help them develop life-long safe driving habits.
Another significant change involves the amount of time in Level 1 of the Graduated Driver's Licence program. New drivers who pass a driver training course will have to wait eight months, instead of four, to be eligible to take their road test and go to Level 2.
This is consistent with almost every other jurisdiction in the country: 10 already require eight or more months at Level 1, even with a driver training course, and eight require more than eight months.
We did, however, hear from drivers who are already in Level 1 of the Graduated Licence Program and who expected to be able to take their road test after four months. As a result, we will delay implementation of this rule until Oct. 1. This should give those drivers currently in Level 1 enough time to take their road test and move to Level 2.
After that date, however, all drivers who pass a driver training course will have to wait eight months, instead of four, to take their road test. An additional four months of driving experience may seem as an inconvenience to some, but it is a very small amount of time, considering that they will be driving for their entire adult lives.
Other changes that will take effect as of June 1:
In addition, Level 2 drivers younger than age 21 will only be permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. when they are accompanied only by a licensed driver with three years' experience and with no other passengers.
These restrictions do not apply when they are driving for work or educational purposes, or because of an immediate threat to health or safety. Level 2 drivers may also apply for an exemption from the registrar of motor vehicles for other purposes.
The new rules are appropriate and responsible. Studies clearly show that the number of young drivers killed in road crashes increased dramatically between midnight and 6 a.m., and a significant increase in danger for the driver with each additional passenger in the car.
In the past, a newly licensed driver could potentially have a car full of passengers immediately after getting his or her licence, at any time, day or night. That situation immediately placed a new driver in a situation of increased distraction and danger.
We all want young and new drivers to develop life-long safe driving habits, and these new rules will help them to learn these skills by taking them out of high-risk situations. This will also allow them to learn the roads with a minimum of distractions.
These changes follow the best practices taking place throughout the country and around the world, and we believe they will help to reduce collision rates, injuries and deaths on our roads and highways.