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Impaired driving critics say ridesharing could have prevented fatal Vancouver crash

Critics say ridesharing could have prevented fatal impaired crash
A crash that left a taxi driver dead in Vancouver comes on the heels of one of the biggest controversies of the year. With a lack of ridesharing across B.C., there are heightened concerns about drinking and driving, with one less option for safe transportation. Julia Foy has that part of the story.

With another Christmas having come and gone with still no ridesharing in B.C., impaired driving critics say the service could have prevented Sunday’s fatal crash in Vancouver.

The early morning crash killed 28-year-old cab driver Sanehpal Singh Randhawa, whose taxi was slammed into by a driver in a Car2Go who evaded police at a holiday roadblock.

Police believe alcohol and speed were factors in the crash, which also sent the Car2Go driver to hospital with serious injuries.

READ MORE: Cab driver killed in early morning Vancouver crash with Car2Go; speed and alcohol suspected

MADD Canada spokesperson Bob Rorison says having fewer options for getting a safe ride home in B.C. allows crashes like Sunday’s to happen, leading to unnecessary deaths and injuries.

“In most other countries in the world, someone can pick you up after you hit an app on your phone, and in most cases that ride will be there within 10 minutes,” he said.

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“We still don’t have that in British Columbia, and it’s taking way too long. There’s a lack of understanding of why it’s taking so long. It works, it’s been proven to work.”

Ride-hailing won’t be here by Christmas
Ride-hailing won’t be here by Christmas

Premier John Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena have both repeatedly promised to have ridesharing on the roads by Christmas, or at the very latest by the end of 2019.

Those pledges came after an earlier goalpost was set for fall 2019.

As of Sunday, only one company, Green Coast Ventures, has had their application approved by the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB).

READ MORE: First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C., Lyft and Uber still waiting for decision

The company plans to operate its ridesharing app, Whistle!, in Whistler and Tofino.

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Uber and Lyft’s applications have yet to be approved, despite being among the first companies to make a submission to the PTB. Twenty other companies are also awaiting decisions.

Critics have said the government misstepped by giving control of the approval process to the independent PTB, and for requiring drivers to have commercial Class 4 licences. Uber and Lyft have both said that requirement has made it difficult to recruit drivers.

READ MORE: ‘We’re racing to get drivers’: B.C.’s first ride-hailing app may launch in time for New Year’s

But Rorison says plenty of drivers and passengers are ready for ridesharing to hit the pavement, no matter how limited it might be at first.

“People are ready. They’re standing there waiting and ready to let those cars out and pick up those people that need a ride.”

“Those other people aren’t using existing services for some reason, but I believe that they will use ride-hailing if it’s available. It’s cheaper, it’s easier, it’s faster, and people will make different choices if it’s available.”

First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C.
First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C.

In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation said they want to see ridesharing in B.C. “as quickly as possible,” and are focused on creating a safe and fair industry.

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“The PTB is independent and makes decisions independent of government,” the ministry said.

“While we are disappointed that ride-hailing services are not yet operating, we respect the Board’s independence and process which is meant to provide transparency to those impacted by Board decisions.”

Car-sharing concerns

The fact that an impaired driver was able to get behind the wheel of a car-sharing vehicle is troubling for Markita Kaulius, the founder of Families for Justice whose daughter Kassandra was killed by a drunk driver in 2011.

“A young cab driver lost his life because somebody made the choice to drink and drive, and that death was 100 per cent preventable,” she said.

“Unfortunately, some people who should make that choice to have an arrangement to get home safely, they don’t. And then they take the chance of, ‘Oh, I’m only a few miles from home, I can drive.’ Clearly, they shouldn’t be.”

READ MORE: B.C. will still see Uber and Lyft hit the roads by Christmas, premier vows

There’s nothing that can stop someone from using a car-sharing vehicle like Car2Go or Evo while impaired.

Requests for comment from both companies were not returned Sunday.

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The company behind Car2Go, ShareNow, recently announced it will be suspending operations in North America by the end of February.

Car2Go service shutting down in North America
Car2Go service shutting down in North America

Kaulius says an average of 2,000 people are being removed from B.C. roads every month for drinking and driving, with many of those cases leading to crashes.

She and the rest of Families for Justice have spent years fighting for stricter penalties for impaired driving causing death, after the woman who killed her daughter was sentenced to three years behind bars. She only served two.

With New Year’s Eve around the corner, Kaulius says the lack of options for safe rides home is putting more people at risk.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver green-lights single, regional ride-hailing licence

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“There’s Operation Red Nose, but that’s only for one month of the year and not in every municipality,” she said. “Ride-hailing, I think people would make that call if it was available, and I hope the government implements it soon.”

Rorison agrees.

“We’re entering 2020. We’re entering the modern age where people don’t need to use their car if they’re impaired, where people have options, where people can make choices.

“Let’s not destroy other people’s lives because of our choice, or somebody else’s choice, to drive impaired.”