A recent BC Supreme Court ruling will make you think twice before getting behind the wheel as a designated driver.
In this case, a woman is driving her intoxicated boyfriend home from a soccer tournament. The boyfriend grabs the steering wheel in an argument. The car changes course, crashes, and flips. The boyfriend is killed at the scene and his girlfriend, the designated driver, suffers serious injuries.
The driver, Ms. Felix, was awarded $800,000 in damages against her former boyfriend’s estate. But last week’s ruling says ICBC is not obligated to pay. Why? Because the Judge says provincial regulations limit third-party insurance coverage to pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles on the road. There is no coverage for occupants inside the car, including designated drivers like Ms. Felix.
The ruling sets a dangerous precedent that could leave future designated drivers unprotected.
“We want people to be designated drivers, but you don’t want to put yourself in a dangerous situation,” said BC Justice Minister Suzanne Anton. Anton and Transportation Minister Todd Stone say they are reviewing the decision and will discuss whether or not to make any legislative changes to the regulations.
The decision has serious implications for the holiday season’s Operation Red Nose volunteer driver program. Operation Red Nose helps intoxicated motorists get home safely. In BC, the program has delivered nearly 7800 intoxicated drivers home without issue.
According to ICBC’s website, the insurance company is a “proud partner” of the Operation Red Nose program. ICBC says they support the program by “providing auto insurance to protect volunteers and their passengers.”
But last week’s ruling puts the safety of volunteer designated drivers in jeopardy.
“All I can really say is that this is very disappointing,” said Chris Wilson, BC spokesman for Operation Red Nose.
The Judge said that his decision “is one which some may find disturbing. If that consequence was unintended, that is a matter for consideration by the government”. If the Court of Appeal does not reverse this decision let’s hope that the BC government listens to the Judge and changes the law to protect designated drivers.