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The risks of renegade wine tours in the Okanagan

Rows of vineyards in Naramata.
Rows of vineyards in Naramata.

A designated driver, someone sober as a judge, can still be operating offside the law if they're offering wine tours in the Okanagan.

Many vacationers turn to local Facebook pages to ask for wine tour recommendations. On some of those posts, Natasha Schroeter, a former wine tour driver from Osoyoos, has noticed regular Joes and Janes offering to be their guide.

Schroeter warns those drivers that they are not likely covered by insurance in the event of an accident.

“When I saw people offering to drive visitors in their van or car it made me alarmed,” she said in an online exchange. “The driver is putting a lot more on the line than just their time. And the people consigning those casual services don't know what they are getting themselves into.”

READ MORE: Touring wineries with your furry, four-legged friend

But lots of people accept gas money for driving friends or family to a few wineries – so where’s the line between doing a favour and being a tour operator?

Lindsay Wilkins, media relations advisor for ICBC, says any driver who charges a fee will require some form of commercial insurance coverage.

For drivers who do accept money for wine tours, Wilkins points out how valuable enhanced care insurance can be.

“Under enhanced care, passengers in B.C. are entitled to full coverage for injury or death regardless of the vehicle insurance purchased by the owner,” she said in an email.

READ MORE: This $8.7 million South Okanagan winery for sale comes with its own caves

Max Gordon, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Transportation, also suggested enhanced care to protect passengers in B.C.

But that's just to ensure passengers are covered by insurance. He pointed out that even sedans can be considered a passenger-directed vehicle and if the driver is using it for commercial transportation of passengers, they would require a Class 4 and Passenger Transportation License. Those drivers also have to undergo a driving record check and a police record check with a vulnerable sector check.

“Ride-hail drivers must also ensure their vehicle meets all requirements,” Gordon said in an email. 

He added that the ministry keeps tabs on renegade wine tours through routine monitoring and by responding to complaints.

Anybody busted giving unauthorized wine tours may find themselves in violation of the B.C. Passenger Transportation Act and Motor Vehicle Act, Gordon said.

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