Our View: ICBC conscience found lacking

Police, ICBC, the courts, the Solicitor General’s office – anyone with a bit of sense – has repeatedly encouraged those who drink any alcohol at all to keep out from behind the wheel of their car.

Drinking and driving kills people, we are reminded time and again, through public statements and advertising in a variety of media. Indeed, we’ve done our best to pass along the message ourselves.

If you drink, don’t drive. Call a cab. Take a bus. Walk. Appoint a friend to be your designated driver… oh wait!… after last week’s court ruling, your friend might not want you in the car.

A sober woman driving her drunk boyfriend home got in an accident – caused when her inebriated passenger grabbed the steering wheel. The boyfriend was killed, but the driver was badly hurt, and her costs have mounted into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After first getting as much as she could from the boyfriend’s estate – after all, he caused the accident – she went to ICBC for the rest. When ICBC didn’t cough up the dough, the case naturally proceeded into a courtroom… where a judge regretted having to agree with ICBC: under current regulations, if the car had hit someone else, that person would have been covered – but the driver is out of luck.

The ruling could deter friends – or strangers, in the case of groups like Operation Red Nose – from being designated drivers. Who will risk loss of insurance coverage?

One of the very reasons ICBC was created was to get past the mercenary spirit of private sector insurance companies. This case has damaged ICBC’s own campaign to get drinking drivers off the street.

Clearly, ICBC has outgrown the conscience it was born with in the 1970s. If there’s no new direction from the Court of Appeal, it is up to the provincial government to act quickly to close the hole in the law, and re-establish the principle that no one should have to risk being penalized for being a Good Samaritan.

– B.G.

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