The Halifax taxi industry is working to make cabs safer for passengers.
In the wake of a recent spate of reported sexual assaults by drivers, the municipal transportation standing committee met with industry reps Wednesday and resolved that decals displaying the taxi company’s name and car number, along with safety brochures, will be carried inside all cabs.
A taxi’s only identifying factor is the roof light that displays both the company name and cab number. Remembering that information could be the difference between identifying a suspect in a reported sexual assault or letting that suspect go free.
But Casino Taxi president Brian Herman said the average passenger is only outside the vehicle for 5-10 seconds. If the victim of a sexual assault doesn’t remember the numbers on that roof light, tracking down the suspect could be “like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Herman said he’ll be advising his drivers to place one on the right rear window of their cabs, and the other on the right-hand portion of the windshield.
This plan of action came after the committee passed a motion July 21 asking staff to meet with taxi drivers and companies to brainstorm potential safety measures in the wake of recent alleged sexual assaults.
Since 2012, police say there have been 14 reported sexual assaults in the municipality. Nearly half of those have been committed this year, a total of five assaults to date.
Kevin Hindle, Halifax’s regional co-ordinator for licence standards, said the turnout at the meeting was better than expected. Taxi drivers and companies attended, along with police and representatives from the Tourism Nova Scotia.
Hindle said the city plans to produce, fund and circulate the decals to every licence holder or vehicle owner, with a total of four available for each car.
Another initiative the city is funding is a brochure detailing all the safety tips. These will be distributed to all taxis, and possibly hotels, restaurants and the airport.
A range of long-term solutions — from dash cams and GPS trackers to mandatory sensitivity training for drivers — were also discussed Wednesday.
Hindle said the city will continue to meet and consult with the Taxi and Limousine Liaison Group on what ideas would work best in Halifax.
He said they’re also in talks with municipalities across the country to see what regulations they have in place.
Herman said more regulations are good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all changes will stick. He suggested that forcing passengers to sit in the back seat for their safety is unnecessary. Drivers could simply ask.
“Eventually it would just become habit,” he said.
But one long-term solution Herman is hoping for is a municipally administered taxi training program. “There has been a significant reduction in the overall training received and requirements placed on new drivers,” he said.
Herman said drivers are met with a range of real-life circumstances, many of which the average businessperson doesn’t encounter.
Dash cams were also addressed at the meeting, but only brought up briefly.
“I don’t know why that is,” Herman said. “The point of the camera is to help prove something happened after a driver has been identified.”
But he admitted that the main issue now is, and should be, identifying the suspect.
Original publish date: July 30, 2016