If you think California has especially strict laws on how much an Uber driver can drink—and then drive—guess again.
As new driver-for-hire services continue to grow in popularity, laws that regulate those services are still catching up. That includes provisions permitting Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers to carry passengers while being subject to the same blood alcohol content (BAC) limit as everyone else. Per law, those drivers can legally have a BAC of .08 percent or lower.
A new bill introduced by Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, who represents San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, seeks to lower that limit to .04 percent, which is the BAC limit for other commercial drivers. Achadjian introduced AB 2687 with his colleagues Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) and Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar).
“With evolving technology at the forefront of California’s economy, we need to ensure that those embracing it are safe,” Achadjian said in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction. “In order to safeguard California residents, we need to ensure that [driver]-for-hire vehicles are operating under the same standards as those of commercial drivers.”
The new laws were initially recommended by the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, and then the California District Attorney’s Association, after Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham, a longtime advocate for increased motorist safety laws, became aware that there are no such special restrictions for driver-for-hire services.
Cunningham said that the oversight was brought to his attention in 2015, when his office prosecuted two different cases in which drivers-for-hire were working and carrying passengers while under the influence. One involved a taxi driver who was determined to be under the influence of methamphetamines, and the other involved an Uber driver who was arrested after carrying passengers while driving with a .14 percent BAC.
Cunningham said that while driving under the influence presents dangers to the driver and others on the road, doing so while also providing a service that carries passengers presents an added danger.
“This is really dangerous conduct, and the victims are the people that trust that when you hire an Uber driver or a taxi driver and assume that you’re going to get somewhere safely,” Cunningham said.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay