City wants cabbies off the phone

The city wants to crack down on cabbies who use cellphones while driving. This despite the fact the territorial government hasn't banned cellphone use for other Yukon drivers.

The city wants to crack down on cabbies who use cellphones while driving.

This despite the fact the territorial government hasn’t banned cellphone use for other Yukon drivers.

The move is intended to stop taxi drivers from dispatching calls while driving, said bylaw manager John Taylor.

But the idea, which cabbies agree will make their jobs safer, is also misguided.

Driving a cab with a cellphone stuck to your ear can be the same as driving drunk, said Premier Cabs owner Ken Giam.

He would know – his drivers have been in two serious accidents because of it.

But the danger isn’t really cellphones, it’s drivers trying to do too many things at once, he said.

Drivers often double as dispatchers: answering incoming calls, talking on a two-way radio, remembering where other drivers in the city are, scribbling down addresses – all while negotiating traffic.

The solution is simple, said Giam. Require companies to hire a separate, full-time dispatcher.

That rule’s in the existing bylaw, but isn’t actively enforced.

Stopping dispatcher/drivers is a good idea, but useless if bylaw officers don’t apply the legislation.

“Bylaw services are understaffed and they have a serious, systemic issue of not enforcing their own bylaws,” said Giam.

Bylaw enforcement is spotty, said Grizzly Bear Taxi owner Don Francoeur.

“Bylaw doesn’t do much to enforce their bylaws, to be honest,” he said. “You still see quite a few drivers with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths even though it has been three years since the city put in their (anti-smoking in taxis) bylaw.”

It would be unfair to ban cellphones in cabs if other drivers can use them, said Francoeur and Giam.

But bylaw officers couldn’t distinguish between personal and business calls, said Taylor.

Monday, Taylor presented council with a draft of the city’s updated vehicle-for-hire bylaw.

In addition to the cellphone ban, it lays out several other new rules for taxi companies.

The number of cabs on the road will be limited, liability insurance will increase to $3 million and company vehicles must be no older than five model years.

As well, cabbies can’t play their car stereo without passenger permission.

And the city wants to bar cabbies from eating or drinking while ferrying a passenger.

If caught, either offence could net a $50 fine.

“You have to be able to drink water while you’re working; that idea is bull,” said Francoeur.

However, some changes are welcomed by the industry, especially limiting the number of vehicles on the road, which will curb the expansion of the city’s cab industry.

“Right now, you go outside of Extra Foods at night and you see 11, maybe 12 cabs sitting outside with no one in them,” said Giam.

“There’s no reason for a city our size to have 12 different cab companies.”

On Christmas Day, Giam had some drivers who made as little as $25 because there were so many other cabs on the road.

Requiring an around-the-clock dispatcher and $3-million liability insurance will also cut the number of cab companies in Whitehorse.

“There’s no way that a company with one driver would pay for a 24-hour dispatcher,” said Francoeur.

Smaller businesses will either have to merge or die off.

The industry also welcomes restrictions on who can drive.

Currently, if a person had a serious criminal charge, such as sexual assault or robbery, they couldn’t drive if they had served their sentence within the past five years.

The city wants to change that to 15 years.

But the city is still doling out temporary licences to taxi drivers before fingerprint scans have returned from the RCMP.

That means a driver with a serious conviction could drive cab for 90 days with a temporary licence.

That concerned councillor Dave Stockdale at Monday’s council meeting.

“If anything happens in that situation, are we liable?” said Stockdale.

Taylor couldn’t verify with 100 per cent certainty that the city would in fact be covered.

However, he said that he and his senior bylaw officer could tell by meeting with the applicant if they were qualified.

“We pretty well have to use a gut instinct of, ‘Are they telling us the truth or not?” he said.

“We cross our fingers, hoping. We’ve been very fortunate so far.”

Most people are open about their past and if they carry a record, it’s usually because of a marijuana charge or an impaired driving conviction from 20 years ago, he added.

But drivers who are charged with a crime won’t necessarily be ordered off the road until they’ve been convicted of that crime.

That’s what happened when Mohammed Abdullahi, a Whitehorse cabbie, was charged with sexual assault in the summer.

He could continue driving cab, even though cities like Ottawa would have immediately ordered the driver off the road.

Five months after the charge, Abdullahi was found guilty of exposing himself to a young woman in his taxi and making her touch his penis.

The city’s draft vehicle-for-hire bylaw is available for public input until March 15th.

Contact Vivian Belik at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Most Read