It is difficult not to have sympathy for those people who for various reasons, including medical, don’t want to get out of their cars on the car deck of some provincial ferries – but unfortunately it is a problem without a solution. It is “the way of the world.”
We live in a litigious society where government and private companies are armed to the teeth with lawyers making sure they don’t wind up before the courts.
On the face of it you would think it cruel to force someone to get out of their car and go up to a passenger lounge on a higher deck on a ferry like the Bell Island Ferry run, which is so brief.
In a Nutshell
Here is the problem though in a nutshell. Car decks on ferries are very dangerous places and it has been well established they are lousy places to be when they are located at the water line or just above and things go wrong. The pages of recent history are filled with ferry tragedies. Look up the fate of the ferry Estonia in the Baltic; 850 people died when water came in through an open door to the car deck. I stand to be corrected but I think the number one cause of ferry sinking is because of trouble on car decks at the water line.
Now any reasonable institution has to take those actions that are necessary to protect the people that travel with them. The short answer to all of this is that you can’t stay in your car. Ask Marine Atlantic or, further from home, the people who run the very efficient British Columbia Ferry system.
In the 21st century it isn’t possible to stay in your vehicle for the same reason that a ship can’t sail short-staffed and crews have to be given a maximum number of hours that they can work without relief. They are rules that make sense even if it keeps you off the boat.
There is more than goodwill at work here. Imagine if I were riding on the Bell Island ferry down with cars and something happened to me. Forget about sinking. Perhaps a wave runs into the ferry and I get myself injured between cars. Imagine if the ferry operators let me ride down there despite the Department of Transport regulations. Perhaps they were just being good guys and trying to accommodate me. Well the lawyers would be lined up from Duckworth Street to the Portugal Cove terminal to get a bite of that case. My family would end up owning a ferry.
Clearly there would have been an obligation to protect me in force and the fact I wanted to ride down with the cars wouldn’t matter. You can’t agree to place yourself in harm’s way. It is that simple. I’m not allowed to ride a taxi cab on the hood even if I am willing to accept the risk and absolve the cab owner of any responsibility. So it is with the car deck on a ferry. You can’t do it.