Family of Uber crash victim launches petition calling for stricter licensing rules

The family of a man who was killed while riding in an Uber is calling on Toronto to tighten its rules around driver licensing. They say the current regulations allow unsafe drivers to work for ride-hailing companies.

Drivers not required to pass training program previously required for taxis

Nicholas Cameron was killed after his Uber driver merged into traffic on the Gardiner Expressway earlier this year. (Change.org)

The family of a man who was killed while riding in an Uber is calling on Toronto to tighten its rules around driver licensing.

On March 21, Nicholas Cameron and his girlfriend booked an Uber at around 3 a.m. to catch an early morning flight at Pearson International Airport.

During the trip, their driver turned the wrong way on the Gardiner Expressway, then suggested an unusual route to the airport along city streets, Cameron's brother Patrick Cameron said on Metro Morning.

In March, Nicholas Cameron died when the Uber he hired was smashed from behind. The accident was blamed on driver error... and since the crash, Nick's family has looked into safety regulations around radershare drivers. Coming up, we'll talk to his brother about what they're doing to make the rides safer for passengers. 6:25

"[The driver] didn't seem very confident driving on the highway," Cameron remembered his brother's girlfriend explaining.

After turning back onto the Gardiner, the driver's phone fell to the floor of the car and he pulled onto the shoulder of the road.

When he merged back into traffic, the car was rear-ended by another vehicle travelling at full speed. The collision crushed the rear left of the car, where Nicholas Cameron was sitting.

"His side took the entire impact," Cameron added.

His brother's neck and spine were broken in the collision, Cameron said. He was transported to an intensive care unit, but it soon became clear he would not survive the injuries.

"After two days we had to make the decision to take him off life support," Cameron said, his voice breaking.

The driver is facing four charges, including dangerous driving causing death. Uber also revoked his access to its app.

Cameron's girlfriend and the driver were not seriously injured.

The driver merged onto the highway from the shoulder lane. The vehicle was then rear-ended immediately. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Petition calls for stricter screening

A little over five months since the tragic collision, Cameron is now focusing his efforts to prevent similar deaths from happening again.

He and his family have launched an online petition calling for a "modernized safety training program," including stricter driver licensing and screening for the drivers of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Toronto set its licensing standards for those drivers in the spring of 2016, when city council approved a motion allowing those drivers to pick up passengers without a traditional taxi licence.

"Instead of raising the bar for ride-share safety for companies like Uber and Lyft, what they did is they lowered the bar for everyone," he said.

City altered bylaws in 2016

Under city bylaws approved in 2016, drivers for "private transportation companies" are no longer required to take training programs — including CPR and first-aid — in order to be licensed.

"We believe Nick's death is a direct result of city council's decision," reads the statement on an online petition to change the rules. "We don't think his driver would have passed even the most basic of safety screenings."

Under the current rules, the city evaluates each applicant's record for convictions including careless driving and speeding.

Prospective drivers also undergo a criminal background check, more frequent vehicle inspections and they must have a minimum of $2 million in liability insurance.

Cameron says he doesn't want the city to merely reinstate its former training requirements, but instead create something new that is both safe and convenient.

"We need to find a new balance," he said.

With files from Metro Morning