Should safety shields be manda­tory in taxis? Cab­bie wants city to start con­ver­sa­tion

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - AN­DREA HILL ahill@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/MsAn­dreaHill

A Saska­toon taxi driver wants the city to start talk­ing about in­stalling safety shields in cabs.

“We put our life on the job,” said Ma­lik Umar Draz, who is also pres­i­dent of the local United Steel­work­ers Union. “It is very scary, es­pe­cially for the night driv­ers.”

Draz has been driv­ing cabs in the city for seven years and was once pep­per-sprayed by a cus­tomer who re­fused to pay an $11 fare. He wrote to city coun­cil­lors this month urg­ing them to take steps to make driv­ing a cab safer.

He de­cided to take the is­sue to coun­cil af­ter vis­it­ing Regina taxi driver Iqbal Singh Sharma, who was stabbed sev­eral times in the neck, head and chest while on the job late last year. Sharma was placed in an in­duced coma and re­mains in a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre more than two months af­ter the in­ci­dent.

“We need to take some ac­tions to re­duce those sorts of things in the fu­ture,” Draz said.

While the City of Saska­toon’s taxi by­law re­quires that ev­ery cab be equipped with an emer­gency call but­ton and func­tional in-car cam­era, a pro­tec­tive fi­bre­glass shield is not man­dated. Draz said he would like coun­cil­lors to have a con­ver­sa­tion about whether this should be changed.

His let­ter also out­lines a num­ber of other by­law and prac­tice changes he would like to see the city make to en­sure cab driv­ers are safe and able to pro­vide an ap­pro­pri­ate level of ser­vice.

Among them, he would like the city to in­tro­duce a by­law that would force pas­sen­gers to pay if they throw up in the back of a cab and would like po­lice to make calls from cab driv­ers a pri­or­ity.

He ar­gued peo­ple throw­ing up in taxis is a prob­lem, par­tic­u­larly at night when a pool full of vomit in a cab keeps it out of com­mis­sion un­til the next morn­ing when it can be cleaned, re­duc­ing the num­ber of taxis op­er­at­ing and in­creas­ing wait times. A by­law that would charge pas­sen­gers a clean­ing fee would com­pen­sate driv­ers for lost fares and act as a de­ter­rent for pas­sen­gers who might be feel­ing ill be­fore get­ting in a cab.

Draz said he would also like to see po­lice re­ceive train­ing about re­spond­ing to calls by cab driv­ers. Be­cause po­lice re­sponse is slow, Draz said some driv­ers sim­ply don’t call in to re­port un­paid fares or minor as­saults be­cause they don’t want to wait for of­fi­cers, which can em­bolden of­fend­ers.

Draz’s let­ter will be shared with coun­cil’s trans­porta­tion com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

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