Editorial: Boozey cruises
Last week’s news about beer and wine being sold on some major-route ferries as a pilot project was disconcerting to hear.
BC Ferries confirmed a leaked memo on the subject was no joke and that it will make beer and wine available in the Pacific Buffet area on the three vessels sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen beginning in June.
Critics of the idea are supposed to be comforted by the fact that sales won’t start until 11 a.m., that no more than two drinks will be sold to one person and that food must be purchased along with the booze.
In addition to the obvious boost in revenue, BC Ferries is no doubt imagining that adding beer and wine sales to the buffet area will enhance the voyage experience for tourists, along with the corporation’s TripAdvisor rating. But visitors who are unfamiliar with disembarking procedures and roadways at and beyond the Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen ferry terminals are the last people who should have more opportunities to cloud their vigilance behind the wheel.
It’s hard to imagine how BC Ferries will evaluate the pilot. Will the question be whether it makes enough money to justify the potential tragedy of a drunk-driver-caused accident at the other end? Or at least enough money to justify the stress on employees having to police the consumption or sobriety of buffet area patrons? Or enough money to justify the issues arising when RCMP have to pluck a suspected impaired driver from the disembarking traffic?
BC Ferries staff and RCMP officers already deal with cases where impaired drivers are suspected on vessels. And with more people likely to be driving when impaired by cannabis now that it’s a legal substance, it seems foolhardy to add more fuel to the impaired driving fire.
According to Statistics Canada, impaired driving rates steadily declined between 1986 and 2016. Sustained education and policing efforts have had a positive impact. Still, an average of 65 people per year die in B.C. in car crashes caused by drug or alcohol-impaired drivers. It is still a serious social issue whose solution cannot rely solely on individuals’ discretion and ability to make sound judgements on every occasion.
Making beer and wine available before sending drivers on their merry way is just plain irresponsible. Let’s hope BC Ferries determines that it’s not worth the risk.