OPINION: Rather than focus on a specific licence class, MADD Canada encourages the provincial government to focus on other criteria that have direct road safety benefits

MADD Canada is committed to working with stakeholders and governments to do everything possible to improve road safety in our communities. Despite stronger laws and increased public awareness, impaired driving continues to kill hundreds of Canadians and injure tens of thousands each year.

Even one death from impaired driving is too many. These deaths are entirely preventable. This is why having more safe and reliable transportation options such as ride-hailing services available to the people of British Columbia is so crucial to stopping impaired driving, saving lives and preventing injuries.

It is common to hear stories in British Columbia about the lack of availability of safe rides. Existing services such as public transit and taxis cannot always meet the demand, especially during peak times. Weekend nights, cruise ship arrivals and major sporting events or concerts leave people stranded, with few options for a safe ride home. Visitors to Vancouver and other major B.C. cities are often surprised to discover that the ride-hailing services they use at home and around the world are unavailable here.

We want people to have a range of safe, convenient and accessible transportation options available so they never take the risk of driving impaired. Ride-hailing provides a sober and reliable ride home at the push of a button.

MADD Canada is pleased that the provincial government has publicly promised to enable ride-hailing services this year, but the recent declaration by Transportation Minister Claire Trevena that ride-hailing drivers will face additional licensing requirements is concerning. The timeline to get ride-hailing online in B.C. is very important to avoid preventable impaired driving crashes. 

Currently, the government and ICBC will need a few months to finalize regulations and insurance products to enable ride-hailing. When you add in the time needed for individual companies to get approval to operate from the Passenger Transportation Branch, and for drivers to obtain a Class 4 licence, it could be the end of the year or later before ride-hailing services are available. This could mean another holiday season, when weather and social events combine to make it a busy and high risk time of year, with many British Columbians unable to get a safe ride home.

We fully support regulations and standards that will enhance driver and passenger safety. However, requiring ride-hail drivers to have a Class 4 licence is not necessarily the right solution. In fact, it may actually limit, rather than expand, this important transportation option. Fewer people will become ride-hail drivers, and those who do pursue it may face delays. Furthermore, a lack of drivers could limit ride-hailing companies’ ability to operate in communities that are already underserved by the existing options.

Rather than focus on a specific licence class, MADD Canada encourages the provincial government to focus on other criteria that have direct road safety benefits, including how much driving experience someone has, their driving record and a minimum age requirement. This approach has worked in other provinces such as Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and soon Quebec. These provinces will allow taxi and ride-hailing drivers who meet strict driver history criteria to operate using a standard licence.

We encourage the B.C. government to focus on these criteria, which ensure that proven safe drivers are providing rides. We also urge the government to establish a streamlined process for approving drivers who meet the required safety qualifications so there is minimal delay in ride-hail drivers getting on the road.

British Columbians have already waited far too long for access to ride-hailing services.

Andrew Murie is CEO of MADD Canada.