This week on CTV News they’ve been investigating an ongoing problem in Vancouver around the new drinking and driving laws and alternative methods for getting home safely.
The worry to get home after a night out isn’t a new one. If you’ve known me long enough you’d know this is something I’ve been complaining about since my younger days when nightclubs appealed to me and I was stuck in the suburbs. If you’re not so lucky to have known me quite so long you’d still probably know about my constant problems with finding a way home late at night either through out Twitter page or through this post on the blog. This isn’t just my problem, but a problem for everyone who likes to go out at night and stay out beyond 1am.
With recent changes to the drinking and driving laws it has become more of a public concern. If you’re unaware of the changes that came into effect on September 20,2010 the new laws say that a person driving cannot have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 or higher.
Police in B.C. can now issue an immediate roadside prohibition to an impaired driver with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .05 or higher. (The BAC is based on a breath sample into a roadside screening device.)
The vehicle the person is driving can also be immediately taken off the road and impounded for three to 30 days.
Costs related to these offences can add up to an estimated $600 to $4,060—even if it’s the first time a driver is caught. (source)
0.05 BAC is not a lot, so under the new laws they’re saying that even one drink could land you in trouble with the law. Let me state right now that I’m not debating the law. I have no problem with the law and think anything to take drunk drivers off the road is a good thing. My problem is the with the lack of options given to people who decide to drink and do not want to drive home. I know this is a blog dedicated to Translink, but I want look at all the options and how they’re just inadequate in handling these new driving laws. Fear not, because while many areas need to pick up the slack, I think Translink has a huge role to play in keeping drunk drivers off the road.
One of the best options to get home safe would be the designated driver (DD). This option is of course only good if you or your friends had cars, but for those of us who don’t have cars the onus can sadly fall on one friend. Believe me when I say that one friend isn’t going to be your friend for long. Back in my suburban days I was the one friend with a car and I spent countless nights watching my friends get drunk while I was the ride home. Guess what, after awhile it’s not so fun driving your drunk friends home and you tend to make excuses to miss the next big night out.
Your next option is the taxi. This is the option that lawmakers and transit defenders like to throw out at you. In principle it is a good idea, in practice not so much. First off the lack of taxi’s is a huge problem, and apparently even worse since these laws came into play. CTV ran a story about it Wednesday night that you can find here that outlines the dilemma. The basic problem is that there are simply not enough cabs for the amount of people. Another problem lies in the fact that some people just can’t afford taxi’s. I’ve paid $30 to get from downtown to my house in East Vancouver, at that time of night it’s only a 15 minute drive so I can only imagine the price to pay to the suburbs. Back in the early 2000’s I was paying about $60 for a ride to Surrey, please adjust that for inflation. With these prices and on my budget I don’t have the money to afford the cab ride home and a night out with friends. My final problem with the cab is that as a single woman I often don’t feel safe alone in the cab, it’s nothing against the driver, it’s just that being alone with a strange man will make me feel that way no matter the situation.
In order to avoid high taxi fares and drunk driving the best option is the transit system, if only it ran that late. Unfortunately the skytrain closes before 1:30 so not only is that option not available to us after a night drinking, but I’ve found myself stranded behind the closed skytrain gates after a late movie. Translink also runs a night bus system, but those buses only run every 30 minutes until 3am and only travel the major routes. They don’t run towards cities like Coquitlam or Maple Ridge. As CTV also pointed out, the routes nowadays are too packed to carry all the people waiting. Translink’s official word is that at night they are doing maintenance on the tracks and cannot run the trains, while this is completely understandable that maintenance is needed I fail to see it possible that it’s being done every night of the week. Can’t they forgo it on Friday and Saturday nights, or do it after they run the trains until 3:30 or 4am?
I’m not so naive to think that this isn’t going to cost money. Running trains longer, licensing more taxi drivers, transit police… these things all cost money. But so does running road blocks, paying those officers cost money too, but there are fines coming in (I know, I know not enough to pay these prices). It’s going to cost money towards the government as well as to Translink, and I’m not against charging the bars more (they make enough off the alcohol mark up). One bar has even found their own way to stop patrons from driving drunk. The money could come from a plethora of places, Hornby street bike lanes anyone? Take money from there! The point is if they’re going to make the laws stricter, they have to provide options.
As for other options being thrown around? Drinking closer to home so you’re within stumbling distance to your front door seems like a great idea until you realize that not everyone has this luxury. I don’t have very many drinking establishments near me. And what about those who have friends spread out across the city? Downtown, Commercial Drive, Main and Kits are the biggest drinking spots, they have the most people and the most bars and therefore are the biggest places requiring the need for services. People don’t want to stay close to home, they want to go out and meet people out of their zone. Not to mention the fact that while we think that the drinking business isn’t going to be hurting from this, in the long run they just might. Already restaurants have already had to deal with loss of business due to HST, the new regulations could just push smaller businesses out of business. Just ask A Kettle of Fish.
All I’m saying is that if the government is going to change laws, then other things need to change to in order to make people comply with said laws. It’s about finding affordable, safe and accessible ways to get people home, whether they’ve had a one or two drinks or if they’re passing out on the train home. People are going to drink, it’s just a matter of getting them and the other people on the roads home safely.