By Jordan W. Charness
Sometimes, what seems like a perfectly good idea, and one that makes excellent sense, really doesn’t pan out the way you think it would. Take, for example, the idea the local principal of a high school had of asking the convenience stores near the school to refuse to sell high energy drinks to anyone under 18 during the lunch hour.
According to the principal, too many students were buying these energy drinks at lunch and getting themselves so totally wired that they found it hard to concentrate at best, or at worst, led to disciplinary problems. The two stores in the area readily agreed to help out. That, of course, is where what seems like a good idea at the time just went wrong.
This new agreement immediately became a subject on Facebook and other social media. From there the electronic media became interested and the story started taking off on television and radio and print as well. The problem was that this seemingly good idea was actually a form of age discrimination. Merchants are generally not allowed to refuse to sell any unregulated item to any identifiable class of people. This class would include kids.
Although it is true that the sale of alcohol and tobacco is restricted to persons over the age of 18, these restrictions come as a result of legislation. It is not forbidden just because the merchant decided not to sell certain items to a certain group of people, no matter how well-intentioned.
By the same token it would be virtually impossible to enforce this policy since demanding ID with no valid reason or legislation to back it up is also a violation of privacy rights; being carded to buy Red Bull, unless there’s a law that requires it, is just plain illegal.
On the other hand, our lawmakers are free to make laws that affect various groups of people differently even if it does appear to discriminate according to age. Driving laws are just those types of laws.
On June 19, 2011 the province of Québec introduced legislation that changes the point system so as to discriminate against any driver under the age of 25. Prior to that date drivers used to be considered as those with full licences after two years of driving experience. So a 19-year-old would have a full licence with full points. Now that same 19-year-old will only have about half the number of demerit points available before losing his or her licence and driving privileges.
Some have raised this as another example of age discrimination. However the law does not see it that way. Governments have the right to decide under what circumstance people will have the privilege of driving a motor vehicle. Driving is still considered a privilege and not a right. In order to earn and keep that privilege there are several criteria that must be met. These criteria, including the age of the driver, can be changed from time to time as the government sees fit.