Opinion

COLUMN: Without protection, there is no incentive

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My first reaction a few weeks back, when reading about a court ruling that determined “designated drivers” are not covered with liability insurance, was “well there goes Operation Red Nose.”

And sure enough, when I got to the turn page of the story there was a sidebar (journalese for another story) that said ORN’s future was now up in the air.

As one who has been an ORN volunteer on a number of occasions, I can’t say I ever witnessed an unruly drunk in the groups we shepherded home. However, after a couple of Christmas/New Year’s seasons I opted not to drive the drunks’ cars but to operate the follow vehicle to provide a ride back for the volunteers.

Everyone who has worked the very late nights always felt good knowing they may have saved a life or two. And that is why programs like ORN are good, should be supported, and those who volunteer to help others must be protected by the very organization that they are also protecting – ICBC.

Even the judge who recently ruled against compensation for the young woman severely injured when her drunk boyfriend grabbed the wheel, crashing the car, described his determination of liability as “a powerful disincentive to anyone acting as a designated driver ...”

Even government-sponsored (and likely paid for by ICBC) television commercials extol the virtues of being a Saturday night hero, taking your turn to drive friends home from a night of partying.

Yet thanks to this ruling, caused I might point out, by ICBC itself by refusing to pay compensation to the injured woman who apparently can no longer work, designated drivers are not only giving up a fun evening but any rights to protection should an accident occur.

If that’s not addle-headed I don’t know what is.

ICBC and any other insurer should be going out of their way to encourage designated drivers, and make it even more appealing by providing extra protection.

After all, the DD is not only getting drunks home safely, he/she is also making the roads safer for everyone else.

I find it a contradiction that while ICBC fights compensation for a designated driver, it is also a partner of Operation Red Nose.

This court ruling, and I’m not faulting the judge who appears to have followed the rules of law, must be appealed.

And though an anomaly it may appear to be, I believe ICBC should fund that appeal, then plead no contest.

After all, getting drunks off the road is a significant aim of not only our provincial insurer but the government itself.

Our roads become safer, and innocent lives are saved, because either friends or volunteer groups like Operation Red Nose are literally risking their lives or their futures to protect others.

Should not designated drivers also expect to be rightfully protected?

 

markrushton@abbynews.com

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