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'Lives are at stake': groups renew call for ride hailing ahead of marijuana legalization

Last Updated Oct 11, 2018 at 4:50 pm PDT

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Summary

NICHE says ride hailing could prevent driving while high

Barinder Rasode urges people to pressure civic leaders for ride hailing

The owner of the Vancouver Canucks is just one person pushing to bring ride hailing to B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –  With legalization just one week away in Canada, groups in British Columbia are pressing the provincial government even harder to bring ride hailing services to B.C.

“As October 17 is coming near, Cannabis legalization day, one of the things that’s really important for the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education is that we need to keep the conversation alive about impaired driving,” Barinder Rasode, founder of NICHE, says, adding impairment from alcohol isn’t the only concern. “It’s really important for me as a mother of three to know that my children won’t be forced to either make bad decisions or get in unsafe situations because they can’t find a ride home.”

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The provincial government said earlier this year that ride hailing services won’t be available in B.C. until at least the fall of 2019.

As Canadians wait for legal marijuana, Rasode worries the number of people driving while high will increase if they don’t have safe transportation options.

“We already have people who are driving while impaired, and that number goes up when there are not safe solutions for people to get home,” Rasode explains. “Rideshare not only provides a safe alternative that’s convenient, but it’s affordable. All British Columbians, no matter if you live in Fort St. James, Surrey, or Vancouver, or Victoria, deserve the right to have safe transportation.”

NICHE Canada fully endorses the Rideshare Now in B.C. program.

MADD Canada is pleading with the provincial government to move forward with bringing services like Uber and Lyft to B.C., in order to protect Canadians.

“One major way we can change things is to have access to reliable transportation options, and that includes ride sharing,” Patricia Hynes-Coates, MADD Canada national president, says. “We know from recent Stat Canada surveys that 14 per cent of cannabis users reported to driving two hours after consuming cannabis in the past three months.”

She adds other national surveys have shown similar rates. Hynes-Coates believes this all goes to show that many people just aren’t getting the message.

“They don’t realize that if you’re using cannabis your ability to drive is altered. This perception needs to be addressed,” she says.

While education and awareness about the risks associated with impaired driving are key, Hynes-Coates says it’s vital that people have a range of transportation options available.

“First it was going to be available in the fall of 2017, then they delayed it a year. Now I’m hearing it’s going to be delayed again — that’s just not good enough,” she says. “Lives are at stake. We don’t need to bury any more Canadians or have anyone else seriously injured from impairment-related crashes.”

The provincial government said in July that there were still concerns about safety that needed to be addressed, but that more taxis would be made available while it laid out the groundwork for ride hailing services in B.C.

Hynes-Coates is not just a part of MADD Canada, but is also someone who has been directly impacted by the consequences of driving while impaired.

“The statistics are telling us that the road crashes are there, they have been happening and that they are on the rise because more people are utilizing it now that it’s going to be legalized. So we need to make sure that we give those options because it is about saving lives and stopping these crashes from happening.”

While talks have been positive, according to local groups, some say the time is now to bring ride hailing in.

“We’ve had good meetings along the way, we’re feeling positive about where they are,” Ian Tostenson with Ridesharing Now for B.C. says.

Even if only one life is saved as a result of making ride hailing available, Tostenson says it’ll all be worth it.

RELATED: Ride hailing advocates push for services by the end of 2018

He, along with MADD Canada and NICHE, says ride hailing would work alongside taxis, and wouldn’t replace cabs.

“[The province is] pretty much on the timeline that they’ve announced, which is legislation this fall and implementation, or taking licensing a year from now,” Tostenson explains. “Our position is we should do that sooner.”

He points to some questions the province might have, including what companies like Uber or Lyft might bring to the marketplace.

Local governments can help

Oct. 17 isn’t the only important date coming up in B.C. Civic elections will be taking place just days after marijuana legalization.

This, Rasode believes, is a perfect time for people to voice their concerns to their elected officials.

“We have an opportunity before us,” she says. “I’ve been an elected councillor, I know the dynamics that take place during the campaign. People need to get engaged, people need to be going out to all candidates meetings, they need to be contacting their candidates who are running for office to see if they support ride share.”

She says municipal politicians have a big influence on the government, and adds it’s important communities elect those who are committed to public safety and public health.

Vancouver Canucks owner supports ride hailing

The owner of the Vancouver Canucks added his voice to those pushing to bring ride hailing services to B.C. on Thursday.

Francesco Aquilini, on our sister station Sportsnet 650 today, said “it’s like saying ‘we don’t have WiFi.'”

He has previously said he’d like to hear mayoral candidates make a commitment to bring Uber and Lyft to Vancouver.

Other local stakeholders are pushing for ride hailing services, saying it could cut down on driving while high.