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Driving school installs cameras in bid to ensure safety during lessons

Step taken as owner of rival driving school, former Quesnel mayor Steve Wallace, faces sexual assault allegations
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Kate Harris shows off one of the cameras that will be used by DriveWise B.C.

A Victoria driving school has installed cameras in all its vehicles in the wake of sexual-assault allegations against the owner of another driving school in the city.

DriveWise B.C. has put cameras in its 21 cars at a cost of about $60 per car per month, said company owner Kate Harris.

“It’s no surprise we’ve had a lot of questions from parents and students recently about how we can ensure safety during our driving lessons,” Harris said.

“We wanted to review our safety policies and protocols, and we felt pretty confident we had a safe learning environment. But we thought we can go above and beyond that, add the cameras as an extra layer of protection to give ourselves, our students and their families reassurance that we’ve heard them and we take what they are saying seriously.”

Driving instructor Steve Wallace, who was mayor of Quesnel from 1990 to 2002, has promised to appear in provincial court next month on three counts of alleged sexual assault. One of the alleged sexual assaults dates from 2011, the other two from 2021.

ICBC has permanently cancelled Wallace’s driver instructor licence.

Harris said it has been a very difficult few weeks for her driving school and its staff since the allegations came to light.

“Like the rest of the community, we’ve grappled with shock and concern for these women that have come forward,” she said.

The company, which has been in business almost 50 years, never expected it would have to take such strong action, she said. “But we’ve done it and we’re quite happy with the way it’s working out.”

Customers are also very pleased, Harris said, and a number of driving students switched from other driving schools when they heard about the video cameras. “They want that,” she said.

The DriveWise instructors support the move and have given formal consent to the use of cameras during their lessons. Students provide consent when they register with DriveWise B.C.

“We surveyed close to 200 students to ask if they would choose to have their lessons recorded and all but one said yes,” Harris said.

The new cameras record the student driver and the instructor inside the vehicle, and what is going on outside. However, the company paid for more a system that protects the privacy of other drivers and the public by blurring licence plates and faces, Harris said.

The recordings will be stored for 100 hours and will only be reviewed if there is a driving incident or complaint.

Mark Anderson, the owner of West Coast Driver Training, said he could consider the in-vehicle cameras, but for now has installed dashcams that include an audio recording of what goes on inside the vehicle.

“The entire lesson is on audio record.”

He hopes the dashcams will help deal with road-rage incidents involving his fleet.

Anderson said he took the step of adding dashcams despite being told he could run afoul of privacy regulations.

In B.C., commercial organizations are subject to the province’s Personal Information and Protection Act, which regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Dashcam videos of people inside a car or walking on the sidewalk can, with a few exceptions, be collected only with their prior consent.

The use of external dashcams by driving schools likely requires the express consent of all individuals who will be captured by the cameras, Michelle Mitchell, senior communications manager with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, said in an emailed statement.

Blurring technology is one step toward addressing privacy concerns of outside-facing dashcams, but they may not be the complete answer due to a number of circumstances, she said.

Internal dash cams may be compliant with the act if all individuals consent, in writing, to their use ahead of time.

Written policies must be clearly communicated to the student regarding the purposes of capturing, using and storing their personal information, as well as how recordings will be stored and when they will be erased. Students must be able to tell when the camera is on.