Consider Uber, urges Sask. lawyer as SGI takes bars to court
Auto injury lawyer Jonathan Abrametz believes ride-booking service could save lives
A Saskatoon lawyer says Saskatchewan Government Insurance could help reduce the temptation for impaired drivers to get behind the wheel by making it easier for ride-booking services like Uber to operate in the province.
Jonathan Abrametz is an auto injury lawyer for the Barrister Group in Saskatoon, including people injured by impaired drivers.
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"If we had Uber in the province it would give greater accessibility to people who may be impaired and may be thinking 'I want to drive home but I'm not sure how to get there,'" he said.
The suggestion comes following SGI's decision on Thursday to sue two bar owners that served the impaired driver who killed the Van de Vorst family of four in January 2016.
The legal action, filed in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench, is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan.
Accessibility to transport matters, says lawyer
Abrametz said licensed premises like bars and restaurants have a duty to step in and prevent an intoxicated person from driving, if they are able to foresee the person is planning to get behind the wheel.
He said server training, which will become mandatory for all employees serving or selling alcohol in Saskatchewan next June, is only part of the solution to the province's impaired driving problems.
Abrametz believes SGI has a role to play in making it easier for ride-booking services like Uber to operate in Saskatchewan, adding that he believes it would benefit farther-flung parts of the city.
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"Why can't there be a regulation to enable the local non-drinker, who has a good car, to pick up Uber fares and take people home legally?" he said.
"We know that people take money for rides all the time, why can't there be a legal way of doing it conveniently?"
Abrametz believes SGI has a role to play in making it easier for ride-booking services like Uber to operate in Saskatchewan.
No plans to change conditions for Uber: SGI
Currently in Saskatchewan, there is not a valid licence for Uber drivers through SGI, so the ride-booking service is not legally available.
Anybody who wants to charge passengers for a ride needs to operate under the same licensing and registration conditions as a taxi service.
SGI is maintaining its position that it is waiting to see what municipalities do before considering changes.
The prospect of allowing Uber in Saskatchewan has sparked debate at the municipal level in Saskatoon. Concerns have been raised by the city's taxi industry, and no commitment has been made to allow the service there or in Regina.
"[The municipalities] haven't advised us about what, if any, changes they would like to see to provincial regulations around transporting passengers for hire," said SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy in an emailed response to questions.
Lack of car service 'no excuse'
He said lack of access to a service like Uber was not a valid excuse to drive impaired.
Catherine McKay's blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when her vehicle struck and killed the four members of the Van de Vorst family north of Saskatoon.
Industrial Kitchen & Bar and Crackers Licensed Cocktail & Dining Room in Saskatoon both served Catherine McKay the night of the incident.
SGI said bar staff should have noticed how intoxicated McKay was. SGI wrote in a Facebook post Friday, based on information from SLGA, that bars have a legal obligation to ensure alcohol is sold and served responsibly within their establishment.
It said bars are required to have their staff complete server intervention training as a condition of their liquor permit.
But SLGA confirmed Friday only some bar staff are currently required to have the training, which is being phased in over three years.
Mandatory server training in Saskatchewan
Here's a summary of the rules for bars and servers, both now and in future:
- June 30, 2016: All owners and managers required to have completed the training and new hires required to take the training within 30 days of beginning employment.
- June 30, 2017: Licensed premises required to have at least one person on shift who has had the training.
- June 30, 2018: All employees involved in the sale and service of alcohol must have completed the training.
SLGA said it conducted random inspections that verify if employees have received the training. Permit-holders who breach the regulations can receive a warning or be fined or suspended.
Vancouver-based insurance defence lawyer Lorne Folick, who specialized in liquor liability and wrote a textbook entitled Liquor and Host Liability Law in Canada, said server training had been mandatory in some other provinces for decades.
"We've been living with this for a long time and because of it there is a higher degree of knowledge about serving at the server level," said Folick.
"In other words, servers in these other provinces are well aware in their rights and obligations because this training is mandatory."