Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cabbies must receive safety training:group; Proposal to be pitched to taxi commission

From the Kingston Whig-Standard website:

Rob Tripp
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Local news
- Kingston's taxi industry is poised to introduce mandatory safety training for drivers and other measures following the first murder of a city cabbie.

A committee of 12 people comprised of taxi company owners, drivers, and members of the taxi commission has agreed that education should be compulsory.

"Safety education is going to happen," Doug Cox, owner of Kingston and Amherst Taxi and the chair of the committee, said in an interview Monday.

There are no current mandatory safety measures for Kingston cabs and drivers.

The safety committee was established by the commission in late June. The commission is the independent body that regulates the industry. Committee members have been meeting behind closed doors for the past two weeks and have decided on measures to be proposed, Cox said. The seven-member board of the commission will have final say.

Cox expects the education portion will be approved by the commission without problems, since the idea was widely endorsed by the industry. The committee surveyed taxi drivers and owners.

"There's a few other things but I can't really comment right now," he said.

The committee has considered the use of safety shields or partitions, video cameras and other alert systems such as flashing exterior lights.

The education plan is likely to include a safety video and booklet all taxi drivers will be required to review yearly before they are licensed.

Shields and cameras are commonplace in many large cities across North America. Cameras are mandatory in Toronto taxis, where their introduction is credited with dramatically reducing the number of robberies.

The introduction of mandatory partitions in taxis in New York City cut the homicide rate for cabbies from more than 30 per year to almost zero.

Cox would not say which other measures the committee plans to recommend to the commission. The proposals should be made public at the commission's next meeting on Aug. 15.

Commissioner Doug Teeple, who also sits on the safety committee, wants to see all the measures instituted quickly.

"I think it should happen before Christmas," he said.

Teeple, a former cabbie, said the holiday period can be the worst time of the year for drivers who confront drunken and belligerent passengers.

Many taxi operators and drivers have expressed skepticism about the need for partitions or shields in Kingston cabs, even after the killing of Amey's driver David Krick.

The 50-year-old Kingston man died on June 17 after he picked up an early morning passenger on Wright Crescent.

His attacker left him on the sidewalk on Durham Street a few minutes later. He was bleeding profusely from stab wounds to the chest. Krick was pronounced dead in hospital.

Kingston Police are still hunting his killer, who stole his taxi and abandoned it a few blocks away.

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