Designated drivers who charge for rides in B.C. may be violating the law and breaching their insurance.
While having a designated driver is recommended for nights like New Year’s Eve, it’s illegal for them to ask for payment for rides in B.C. without meeting specific requirements, noted Christine Kirby, road safety coordinator for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).
People need to be careful when it comes to the specifics of designated driving, Kirby said. Offering a ride to friends or family for free or for the price of gas is fine, but when a dollar amount is put on the ride itself, it becomes like a taxi or business, she explained.
Bowen Osoko, a spokesperson for VicPD, noted that offering rides for a fee without the proper licensing isn’t legal at any time of year in B.C. – it’s a violation under the Motor Vehicle Act. To operate like a taxi, drivers need to follow specific requirements; primarily, they need a Class 4 commercial license and, depending on their municipality’s bylaws, they may need a taxi license or business license, he said.
Osoko pointed out that while it may seem hard to catch people operating a designated driver “side-hustle,” they’re often reported by legitimate taxi drivers or caught during a traffic stop. He added that in the event of an accident, ICBC may refuse to pay for the damage.
Kirby also pointed out that even offering rides for free can be a risk when it comes to insurance. The driver would need higher liability insurance and if they were caught without it, they may be found in breach of their insurance.
General insurance isn’t made for “hauling people” and drivers can’t be “using their insurance for what it’s not made for,” Kirby said.
She recommends that folks who’d like to offer their services as a designated driver volunteer for an existing designated driver company such as Operation Red Nose.
Those companies have the proper insurance that acts as blanket coverage for all their drivers, Kirby explained.
She noted that there is still time for interested drivers to join a team in time for New Year’s Eve. The drivers will simply need to stop by an ICBC office first to pick up a driver’s abstract so the company can assess the driver’s history – like a criminal record check.
Osoko emphasized out that police always encourage people to find a safe ride home after a night of drinking and all the traditional options – buses, taxis, appointing a sober driver – are recommended. He suggests avoiding the side-business ride options as it comes with unnecessary risks and officers will already be out trying to keep everyone safe while they ring in the new year.