updated 11/19/2008 4:41:16 PM ET 2008-11-19T21:41:16

Canadian officials proposed tougher restrictions on teen drivers in Ontario, including a prohibition on new motorists 19 and younger from driving with more than one teenage friend, prompting thousands of young drivers to protest online.

The bill, introduced in the Ontario legislature Tuesday, also included a zero blood-alcohol limit for drivers under 21 and escalating sanctions for young drivers who speed, starting with a 30-day license suspension.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called the legislation a modest restriction on the freedoms of young people and safe-driving advocates lauded the move, but it raised the ire of many young drivers.

'Worst law ever made'
Peter Robinson, 18, who created a group about the legislation on Facebook, an online social network, said that while he agreed with some of the restrictions, the passenger limits represent "the worst law ever made."

"Sometimes I have to pick up two or three different teammates to go to a game," said Robinson, who plays on sports teams and relies on carpooling.

"If I'm not able to do that we may not have the right amount of players to play."

Others are concerned about designated drivers getting their friends home safely.

Alex Popescu, 17, said the law, if passed, would mean he wouldn't be able to bring his friend and girlfriend to parties and accused the officials of age discrimination.

"I passed my test just like any other person," Popescu said Wednesday. "I did good and I think I deserve to be able to drive with anybody I want.

3,500 sign online petition
Dominique Noel started an online petition Tuesday opposing the new restrictions on young drivers in Canada's most populous province. By Wednesday afternoon 3,563 people had signed it.

The law would limit drivers between the age of 16 and 19 to having only one passenger 19 or under in the vehicle during their first year of driving.

The government said there would be special passenger rules for siblings.

The new legislation was prompted by Tim Mulcahy, whose son and two young friends died after their car plunged into a lake in Ontario this summer after they had been drinking.

Mulcahy started a petition and published a letter to McGuinty seeking to tighten the laws that regulate young drivers.

"We owe it to our kids to take the kinds of measures that ensure that they will grow up safe and sound and secure, and if that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then as a dad, I'm more than prepared to do that," McGuinty said.

The provincial police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Canadian Automobile Association praised the legislation.

Studies show just one teenage passenger with a teen driver doubles the chances of an accident and that risk increases with the addition of every teenage passenger, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Licensing systems in the U.S. vary from state to state.

Some states, such as Virginia, restrict new drivers to no more than one passenger younger than 18 in the first 12 months of driving, while other states, such as Indiana, allow no passengers except for family in the first 90 days of driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety based in Virginia.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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