In the February 17 story City Wants Cabbies Off the Phone, Premier Cabs was quoted, “Driving a cab with a cellphone can be the same as drunk driving.”
Premier Cabs would like to further clarify that recent research has shown when someone is driving and using the cellphone at the same time, the risk of getting into an accident is about the same as when someone is driving intoxicated.
Taxi drivers occasionally have to drive to remote and out-of-town places to pick up or drop off fares. The two-way radio communication is out of range in these faraway places, and taxi drivers may have to depend on a cellphone for safety and emergency purposes. By introducing a taxi bylaw to prevent drivers from possessing cellphones, the bylaw department will inadvertently subject them to risk of harm.
Premier Cabs believes the bylaw department could have appropriately dealt with the cellphone issue by enforcing section 56(l) of the taxi bylaw. It states, “Every taxicab shall be equipped with a two-way radio communication with a base station and dispatcher.”
If cab companies have a base station, two-way communication and a dispatcher, there would be no need for taxi drivers to be dispatching and driving at the same time. If section 56(l) of the taxi bylaw is enforced, the cellphone issue would have been a nonissue.
Premier Cabs has, on numerous occasions, urged the bylaw department to enforce section 56(l) of the existing taxi bylaw to protect the safety of commuters as well as taxi drivers. Unfortunately, the bylaw department claims they do not have the power to enforce this section due to a previous court decision. Premier Cabs has made attempts to retrieve this court decision, including a direct request of the bylaw department as well as searching through the court registry. As the department is unable to release the decision paper, attempts to locate the court decision remain futile.
It is, however, strange that the court would have prevented our bylaw department from enforcing section 56(l) of the taxi bylaw, which is clearly intended to protect commuter and driver.
In every jurisdiction, taxi companies operate out of a base station, dispatcher and two-way radio communication. This is a basic safety rule meant to protect both driver and commuter. It is also a traditional rule in the taxi industry. If a court decision is able to deter our bylaw department from enforcing such an important rule, I hope our bylaw department will dedicate resources to take it up so that the spirit or good intent of section 56(l) could be respected.