One student’s fight to make roads safer

  • March 30, 2011
Alex Don, left, a student at Burlington, Ont.’s Assumption High School, with CAW president Ken Lewenza at Queen’s Park for the first reading of Bill-161.TORONTO - Although some teens may not like the idea of being labelled a new driver, at least one believes a special plate to indicate a car’s driver has a provisional licence would make the roads safer.

Alex Don, an 18-year-old student at Burlington, Ont.’s Assumption High School, proposed such an idea to provincial politicians, which has led to Bill-161, the Novice Driver “P” Plate Act, that was introduced in the Ontario Legislature and passed first reading March 10.  

“It’s difficult to get the G2 (graduated licence) and start driving on the highway,” said Don whose idea sparked the private member’s bill for the “P” licence plate.   

“There have been some naysayers who say they’re a great driver and don’t need to be branded,” said Don, but a majority of the teens he’s spoken with agree with the idea of a “P” plate.  

Don and the school’s child and youth counsellor, Fernando Costa, approached several politicians, including Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn, about the idea of the special plate for new drivers to indicate they have a provisional licence.

The idea came to Don when he was on Christmas holidays in Australia, which also has a graduated driving licence program where new drivers gain experience and skills gradually, with conditions that must be met before a driver gets a graduated licence. He saw a friend’s “P” plate and asked him about it. His friend’s mother, a doctor, told him the program is “saving so many lives.” Upon his return to Canada, Don did some research and found other countries had success with such a program as well.

Costa was eager to hear about Don’s idea. He knows the impact of car accidents first-hand. His mother was in a bad car accident several years ago and is unable to drive. And at Costa’s former high school, the school lost two students in a car accident. Costa had been counselling the girlfriend of one of the students who died. She later committed suicide.

“If I can protect people from the suffering and pain people suffered, (I would),” Costa said. “It’s about saving lives. For every (teen) in a car, there are two others.”

Costa is also motivated to help others through his faith.

“As a Catholic, it’s about making a difference,” he said. “When we’re knocking on heaven’s door, (we’re) going to be asked, ‘What have you done to the least of my brothers?’ ”

Flynn said the bill will be debated in the legislature this spring.

“The bill has merits of its own. The fact that it comes from a young man, a young student from our school system, sends the message to other people that they can influence politics,” Flynn said.

Flynn first met Don when the then-Grade 8 student was a parliamentary page. Don presented him a report on the pay scale of parliamentary pages and how Ontario’s was lagging behind.  

“(Don) was a person who took time to learn the rules on how the laws are made and use the rules to influence the system,” Flynn said. “He’s a role model for other young people.”

Flynn notes that just because the idea was introduced by a student, it will still receive the same scrutiny as any other bill.

“This is not a debate that’s a slam dunk. It will have to earn its way through parliament,” Flynn cautioned.

aAs for Don, he says the experience has piqued his interest to study law and public affairs, with a potential political career down the road.

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