Opposition mounts to easing of restrictions for novice drivers in New Brunswick

Posted: Updated:

FREDERICTON - Opposition is growing to the proposed elimination of an overnight driving restriction for new drivers in New Brunswick with MADD Canada and the Canadian Automobile Association saying the government is acting against their advice.

The CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada said Wednesday the change would endanger the lives of young people and called the proposal "dumb."

"More young people are going to die and that is the real shame of this," Andrew Murie said in an interview.

Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors introduced legislation last week that would remove a restriction preventing novice motorists from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. because it is an inconvenience for young drivers, especially in rural areas.

"Our consultation showed that it was a hardship on young people and we have no evidence it improved public safety," Trevors told the legislature.

"We are going to do what the stakeholders and the people of New Brunswick want us to do."

Murie said he was part of a consultation meeting that included about 40 high school students and 10 experts, but the government didn't listen to the experts.

"I can't believe the minister and this government is ignoring not just the advice of us, but the advice of everyone, just because it's unpopular with young people," Murie said. "They have a duty to keep young people safe."

Former Liberal premier Shawn Graham defended the law brought in by his government, saying half of all teenaged motor vehicle deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"When our government introduced these restrictions for young drivers we knew it would be politically inconvenient. However, we also knew it was the right thing to do since it would save lives and make our roads safer for all New Brunswick motorists," he told the house.

Graham said the Progressive Conservative government should withdraw the legislation or let it die on the order paper.

The Canadian Automobile Association joined MADD in opposing the change on Wednesday, issuing a statement that said there is no science to support the elimination of the overnight driving restriction.

"This change will put our young people at risk and will put other motorists using the roads at risk," said Steve McCall, president of the association's Atlantic branch.

McCall said if the change is approved, it would be contrary to restrictions that are in place in the other Atlantic provinces and most of the country.

Parts of the United States are also widening their restrictions for new drivers, he said.

"Twenty-five per cent of states, I'm told, are actually increasing the length of the night-time restriction to 9 or 10 p.m.," McCall said.

But Trevors said he's pressing ahead with the change, which he believes will help improve the skill of new drivers.

"In this change with the graduated driving at night, right now we need to get our young drivers or new drivers ready for all elements," he said.