MADD Canada concerned after Toronto pauses issuing of rideshare licenses

WATCH ABOVE: City staff have been ordered to hit the pause button on issuing new licenses for ridesharing services like Lyft or Uber until a mandatory driver training program is implemented. In the city, about 40,000 people drive for such platforms. As Morganne Campbell reports, there's concern the move will hinder people's ability to get around following a cup of holiday cheer.

As the holiday season approaches you may find it harder to arrange for a ride home after the City of Toronto recently voted to temporarily stop issuing licenses for rideshare drivers.

MADD Canada said it’s concerned there will not be enough rides available with the busy holiday season coming up and while it supports the implementation of a mandatory training program, the organization is concerned the move may have a negative impact on Torontonians.

“We’re heading into the holiday season – a time when alcohol consumption can increase and the risk for impaired driving is high,” said MADD Canada chief executive officer Andrew Murie. “This decision means there will be less drivers available, and increased wait times for Torontonians who are trying to make the responsible decision of not driving themselves after consuming alcohol or drugs.”

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The City began looking at mandatory training requirements following the death of Nicholas Cameron in March of 2018. Cameron was killed while taking a Uber to the airport when the driver pulled to the shoulder of the Gardiner Expressway to retrieve a cell phone which was on the floor of the car, the car was hit when it merged back into traffic.

“We have tens of thousands of drivers on the road who are not trained and they’re still picking up passengers for a commercial fee so what happened to Nicholas Cameron could happen to somebody else,” said Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam who championed the motion and expressed her disappointment that City staff didn’t bring forward a plan sooner.

“I do not believe the pandemic is a legitimate excuse for City staff not having done what council directed them to do.”

The mandatory training program would impact not just rideshare drivers but essentially any for-hire drivers including limousine and taxi drivers.

Toronto’s taxi sector has stated it welcomes the pause and said it will have cabs available to offer safe rides for all who need one.

“Having untrained drivers on our streets is a threat to the safety of both passengers and drivers – as well as other road users,” said Kristine Hubbard, operations manager of Beck Taxi. “Pausing licenses until they can be trained is the right thing for safety, for security, and for service.”

Toronto’s taxi industry said it would like to see the City develop comprehensive and rigorous training that would include both in-car and in-class components, defensive driving, accessibility, diversity, and sensitivity training.

Lyft, one of two popular rideshare programs in Toronto is concerned about the recent move, saying its drivers go through rigorous safety screenings prior to being approved to drive on the platform.

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“We support Toronto’s efforts to implement additional education. However, the City’s abrupt action will lead to lost earnings opportunities for new drivers at a time when many are attempting to recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19,” writes CJ Macklin a senior communications manager for Lyft. “As passengers continue to return to rideshare, ride prices may rise, and wait times may suffer as a result of an inadequate number of drivers.”

Ontarians do however appear to be consuming more alcohol since the beginning of the pandemic, a study out of Sunnybrook Health Sciences has found that alcohol purchases increased by more than $250 million in the first four months of the pandemic which means Ontarians are spending roughly $2 million a day on booze.

“Our findings underscore a potentially under-recognized public health issue, spotlighting the importance of evaluating an individual’s pre-pandemic and pandemic alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Jonathan Zipursky, lead author, clinical pharmacologist at Sunnybrook.

Dr. Don Redelmeier, who is one of the doctors who penned that report, said he doesn’t believe driver training is the only appropriate move the city can take, as statistically he said he has found advanced driver training only works in military settings and not necessarily in domestic travel.

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“It is not clear you want to enforce advanced driver training which is an intervention that has not been associated with significant improvements in driver safety, that may not be the most appropriate way to go about such regulations,” said Redelmeier, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“Red light cameras, photo radar is associated with about a 30 per cent to a 40 per cent reduction in life-threatening crashes so they’re not just tax grabs by the government.”

MADD Canada continues to lobby for the lifting of the temporary hold on new licenses and will make a presentation at a committee meeting at the end of November as it continues to maintain that a broad range of transportation services need to be made available.

Wong-Tam said she expects the training program to be rolled out in January 2022 and anyone who received a license from 2019 onward will be required to take the training.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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