Council makes Toronto safe forever. Not.

A 17-day training program to teach taxi & ride share drivers midwifery and recycling skills will not make Toronto safer. Photo: CP24

Although smaller, Toronto’s brand-new and improved City Council remains fully committed to making government bigger, more expensive and less effective. If they can ruin an entire industry and make citizens’ lives miserable while they’re at it – bonus!

In the last term of council, Toronto removed a lot of the pointless over-regulation of the taxi industry in order to help it compete with ride share services like Lyft and Uber. Taxis have been over-regulated for years. For example, taxi drivers were required to undertake weeks of training – including life-saving techniques such as First Aid and CPR. Council then, rightly, decided that taxi-drivers are not ambulance-attendants. They should know how to drive. Not how to perform thoracic surgery.

This summer, there was a horrible vehicle collision that killed an Uber passenger. The driver had pulled over to the side of the highway, then merged unsafely back into traffic from a standing start. His car was struck by another vehicle travelling at highway speed in the curb lane. The Uber driver made a bad decision and executed it poorly. A man died. It’s a tragedy.

For his incompetence, the Uber driver in question was sentenced to two-years probation, lost his driver’s licence for one year and was ordered to undergo remedial driver training.

Toronto council will be happy, because “just one life” spared makes the destruction of an entire industry worthwhile. Not.

In order to prevent all future tragedies from ever happening in the city of Toronto, council decided this week that all ride share drivers and taxi drivers should be required to undergo a 17-day training program that will make it impossible for them ever to screw up. Good luck with that.

Council was right when it decided the training requirements for taxi drivers were ridiculously onerous. Re-instating those requirements now, is folly. No matter how much training they get, some drivers will make some mistakes sometimes. Air Force pilots receive years of expensive training before they’re allowed to fly jet fighters. They continue to train constantly throughout their career. They still, occasionally, make mistakes. Because, pilots are human. Those mistakes, occasionally result in tragedy.

A 17-day city-administered training program will not turn our Uber and taxi drivers into fighter pilots. It will cost taxpayers millions. It will make it more expensive to drive a taxi – a vocation that is already dying out and impossible to make a living at. It will make driving for Uber impossible for average people – destroying the entire concept of “ride sharing” completely.

But, Toronto council will be happy. Because, just one life spared makes the destruction of an entire industry worthwhile. Because, they can say they fixed the problem – they made the city safe. No one will ever again die in an Uber vehicle.

Until the next time. And, of course, there will be a next time. We’re human, after all.

What we should do

Ontario has lousy drivers. People come here from across Canada (like me) and from around the world. When I arrived here, I handed in my British Columbia driver’s licence and they handed me an Ontario one. No testing. This, despite the fact traffic laws and the rules of the road are different here. For example, the speed limit in school zones is different. A flashing green streetlight has an entirely different meaning here. As does a red light at a cross-walk. I had to learn those differences on my own.

I’m convinced most drivers on our roads have no idea what the laws and rules of the road are. Most drivers are barely competent operators of their motor vehicles. Few drivers have ever taken any formal driver training. And, most driving schools in Ontario appear to be incompetent. I know this from seeing their cars on the street, doing stupid and illegal things, on the regular.

Rather than mandate 17-days of training in midwifery and internal medicine (admittedly handy skills) for Uber and taxi drivers, Ontario should mandate professional driver training for everyone who wants a drivers licence. And, at the very least, people (like me) who arrive from another jurisdiction should be required to pass a written test on rules of the road – especially those rules that are unique to Ontario.

A well-trained driver may, in fact, have seen the Uber car on the shoulder of the highway, slowed down and changed lanes, anticipating the potential for imminent stupidity. That would have saved the passenger’s life.

Mandatory driver training for every driver might actually save lives and ease congestion.