DRIVERS have been warned of a car-sharing error for which they could be fined this Christmas.
Party season is in full swing, and people who are looking for a designated driver as the cost of living continues to bite, using elevator sharing as a part-time job to earn some cash can put you in hot water.
Motorists can be fined up to £2,500 and remain uninsured.
It’s common practice to offer a ride to a friend and family, and there are hundreds of local groups on social media that help set up car-sharing, where people can offer to give strangers a ride home in exchange for payment.
While it’s perfectly fine to give others a ride and ask them to contribute to the fuel bill, it can have serious consequences if the driver is doing it for profit.
Boss of a temporary car insurance company weigoJames Armstrong, said: “Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, the so-called ‘taxi advertisement’, where an unlicensed vehicle is used as a taxi in a public place to transport passengers in exchange for money, is illegal.
“If you are caught by the police it is considered a level 4 offense and you can be fined £2,500 if found guilty.
“This applies to any driver who essentially uses their personal car as a taxi service, making a profit and not having the necessary taxi licenses.”
While “taxi advertising” includes soliciting fares in public places, anyone who arranges pickups in advance must also be careful to stay within the law.
Armstrong said: “In the case of offering a random ride to help people you know get home, you need to know about the Public Passenger Transportation Act.
“For an elevator to be legal, it must be arranged in advance, and the money you charge passengers must never exceed operating costs such as fuel.”
He added: “If you are found guilty of profiting from lifts in an unlicensed car or van, you can also cancel your insurance and be liable for repair and legal costs if you are involved in an accident.
“According to the Association of British Insurers, your insurance coverage will not be affected if your passengers contribute to your travel expenses (including fuel, vehicle depreciation and related vehicle operating costs) if lifts are provided in a vehicle that seats eight passengers or less.
“However, it is recommended that if you are in a car-sharing or ride-sharing program, you check the terms and conditions carefully and speak with your insurance company to make sure you have the correct level of coverage.”
Armstrong also advised anyone considering using an unlicensed rideshare to consider their own safety.
He said: “If you call or hail a licensed taxi, you can be sure that they have passed rigorous background checks and a criminal record check.
“However, if you contact a friend of a friend via WhatsApp or respond to a pickup offer in a Facebook group, you may be putting your safety at risk.
“So always stop and think before deciding to pick up, and if in doubt, arrange a way to get home with a licensed taxi driver or someone you know and trust.”
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