Transportation service needed to help curb drinking and driving, says former Dawson taxi driver

·3 min read
Former Dawson City taxi driver Lance Britney says the community urgently needs a reliable transportation service year-round, and is asking the city to help make that a reality. Right now, the community doesn’t have a single taxi company and he's concerned about people drinking and driving.  (Submitted by Lance Britney - image credit)
Former Dawson City taxi driver Lance Britney says the community urgently needs a reliable transportation service year-round, and is asking the city to help make that a reality. Right now, the community doesn’t have a single taxi company and he's concerned about people drinking and driving. (Submitted by Lance Britney - image credit)

Everyone enjoys a good party, but for Dawson City, Yukon, residents, getting back home after a night of drinking can be difficult and even dangerous.

As of now, the small northern community doesn't have a single taxi company or transportation service during the winter months.

That's why former Dawson City taxi driver Lance Britney is calling on the new mayor and council to act, and help create a reliable transportation service year round.

Britney says it's an essential service for the community, and getting a ride home can be a matter of life or death during the winter.

"You know we've had so much death in the community over the past few years … and many times it's due to just the cold and lack of transportation," said Britney.

Chris MacIntyre/CBC
Chris MacIntyre/CBC

Drinking and driving is very common in Dawson, said Britney, but often residents feel they have no other choice but to get behind the steering wheel under the influence.

Temperatures often drop below −40 C in the small northern community, so walking home can be deadly if they don't have a sober ride home.

"It's not like you're in Vancouver and you can just let the person out, they're going to be fine," said Britney. "You need to look after them and there needs to be an extended transportation service."

The Yukon government's most recent statistics show that impaired driving charges in the territory are on the rise. In 2020, 90 per cent of criminal code traffic violations were due to impaired driving.

There were 785 impaired driving charges in 2020, 53 fewer than in 2019, but still a 139 per cent increase over 2011, when there were 328 charges.

Britney said reliable year-round transportation is needed to help reverse the trend.

Community filling the transportation gap

For now, some residents have stepped up to fill the transportation gap.

Submitted by Lindsay Bourgouin
Submitted by Lindsay Bourgouin

Lindsey Bourgouin, along with Britney, are two of them. They both volunteer to drive people in need, often completely free of charge.

Bourgouin estimates she brought over 40 people home last weekend. She said drinking and driving is rampant, and agrees that the lack of reliable transportation is partly to blame.

"People drive out to the party, and then are not able to find a ride back in," said Bourgouin.

"So often the soberest person at the party will drive, or you don't realize how much you drank and you drive."

Bourgouin said residents were grateful to have someone to call to get back home after partying and she's considering doing this again on big event days like Christmas and New Year's Eve.

But she doesn't have the capacity to drive people every day, so she hopes to see a more reliable way for people to get back home soon.

Municipality's support needed to create transportation service

Britney says it's difficult to run a successful taxi company in Dawson because of the high operation costs.

"The challenges up here to run are amazing," said Britney. "Fuel doesn't last at -50 C very long and commercial vehicle insurance up here in the Yukon is really, really, really high. You know, to run and run a taxi company, you're looking at $9,000 worth of insurance every year."

He said there is often not enough demand to justify the costs of operating a taxi. Regardless, he says it is a "necessary service."

Britney is asking the mayor to consider creative options to offer this much-needed service, such as using municipal resources, teaming up with local hotels and hiring a rotation of part-time drivers.

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