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DDs band together to fight new bylaw

City's designated driving services say the new bylaw will banish them from local roads, impact economy and put more drunk drivers behind the wheel

Sharon Carswell, head of the DD Alliance, says a bylaw set to come into force in the new year for the city's designated driver services will lead to many abandoning operations in Oshawa entirely. Carswell says such an exodus could lead to more people going to bars outside of the city in hopes of securing a safe ride home and potentially more dangerous drivers on the road.

Sharon Carswell, head of the DD Alliance, says a bylaw set to come into force in the new year for the city’s designated driver services will lead to many abandoning operations in Oshawa entirely. Carswell says such an exodus could lead to more people going to bars outside of the city in hopes of securing a safe ride home and potentially more dangerous drivers on the road.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa’s designated drivers are using the old adage of strength in numbers, warning that if the city doesn’t change the DD bylaw in its current form, a large contingent will be pulling out of the city.

In an interview with The Oshawa Express, Sharon Carswell, head of the DD Alliance, said citizens need to understand the gravity of the situation.

“I don’t think the Oshawa residents understand the huge impact this is going to have in January,” she says.

The DD Alliance represents over half of Oshawa’s main DD companies. Previous reports from the city noted that as many as 27 companies exist in the city – however, Carswell notes that number is probably closer to 12 or 13 due to the “fly-by-night” operations being scared off by the city’s pending bylaw.

Now, with new regulations that will see DD companies required to pay a $250 brokers fee, and each driver pay a $150 license fee every two years, along with paying the costs of obtaining a criminal record check, medical clearance letter and a driver’s abstract all becoming the law of the land come January, companies are furious.

“We actually help keep our roads safe, this is crazy,” Carswell says, calling the city’s new system a “cash grab” and overkill as many of the new requirements are already being done by her and her DD Alliance counterparts.

“Leave us alone to run our business,” she says.

The companies also came out in droves at the latest meeting of city council, all of them detailing their dissatisfaction with the new bylaw. One company went so far as to call the bylaw a stab in the back to the companies.

Carswell says she had previously offered the broker’s fee as an option to replace the licensing fee for drivers, something that many companies have said will scare off contract drivers who may only make $30 or $40 in a night. However, the broker’s fee was included in the bylaw while the licensing fee was also kept in.

Now, the companies are saying once January rolls around, Oshawa will simply be a no-fly zone.

“I’ll just drop the city, and that’s where all of our alliance guys (are),” Carswell says, adding all the companies are Durham based and will continue to serve the rest of the region.

The city’s economy could also take a hit as people looking to go out for a few drinks, but get their car home at the end of the night, may take their business to Whitby or Pickering in order to use a DD service, Carswell says. It could also force people to take the risk and drive home after having a few drinks.

“I understand the concerns of the business,” says Mayor John Henry. “The challenge for us is they came to us and asked us to regulate them a number of years ago.”

For Henry, the new bylaw comes down to safety.

“This is an issue of public safety and I want to make sure when you get home, you get home safely and the person driving your car can drive your car,” he says.

As for the ultimatum from the DD Alliance, Henry says he simply hopes the registered companies will see the light and choose to stay.

“I’m hoping that the companies that are out there that are registered companies, that have done their due diligence to do the things, they do to provide the services,” he says.

The issue of insurance for these companies also remains outstanding and has been pushed to the summer of 2017.