Tougher DUI Standard for California Lyft and Uber Drivers.

The neither-fish-nor-fowl nature of rideshare services like Lyft and Uber has ignited a number of controversies in the markets in which the cars operate. Are drivers employees or contract labor? Private citizens or commercial drivers? Are the cars public or private transport? Taxis or something else?

California has taken a stand on one of these issues with a new law. Assembly Bill 2687 states that California Lyft and Uber drivers – and other rideshare service drivers – may not transport passengers if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds .04. That’s half the .08 limit that private drivers must observe.

Commercial Drivers Have More Responsibility

This law, which takes effect in July, is hardly punitive. Taxi drivers, as well as truck drivers and anyone else with a commercial driver’s license, are held to the stricter .04 standard, not just in California but in every state. Commercial drivers are entrusted with public safety to a greater degree, either because they carry members of the general public all day, and because they ply the roads day-in-day-out. Thus they can be said to have a greater public responsibility.

The question the California Assembly had to examine was what a “commercial vehicle” is. Is your family car a commercial vehicle because you drive for Lyft on weekends? Legislators sidestepped the problem by wording the law this way: drivers cannot drive with a BAC exceeding .04 percent “when a passenger for hire, as defined, is a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense.”

If the person in the back is paying, then .04 is the limit. Simple and straightforward.

The arguments will no doubt continue as to whether Uber, Lyft or other rideshare companies are transportation companies or Internet platforms. Frankly, that doesn’t concern us, and the California legislature was right to ignore those controversies and concentrate on the fact that thousands of new drivers are fulfilling commercial responsibilities every day, and should be held to higher commercial standards of sobriety.

The winners in this deal are the people of California, who will enjoy safer roads and safer rides.