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