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Cab drivers in dangerous place

By Melissa Murray

Area cab owners and managers have a laissez-“fare” attitude about cab driver safety and implementing new safety measures for drivers, after a cab driver was assaulted by a passenger last week.

A 25-year-old man from Calgary faces charges for allegedly assaulting a Belleville cab driver, and someone who tried to help him on Front Street, on Feb. 1. Both the passerby and the driver received minor injuries.

Between 2001 and 2005, Statistics Canada named cab driving Canada’s most dangerous job.

Of the 69 murders that occurred within a workplace, 11 were cab drivers, while 10 of them were police officers.

Despite that statistic and the recent assault on a Belleville cab driver, Bill Montgomery, general manager of Central Taxi’s Belleville division, said protective shields and dividers between the driver and passenger haven’t worked.

“It interferes with the driver-customer relationship,” said Montgomery.

“The passenger feels like they’ve been thrown in the back of the police car,” he added.

Shields were used in the Cornwall area, but were removed within months of installation, said Montgomery. “People refused to get in the cabs,” he said.

Coventry Connections, a company based in Ottawa, recently bought Central Taxi, which will bring many changes to how Central cabs operate.

By July, Central hopes to have new technology in their cabs to improve safety, but that won’t include a divider.

“We have problems with assaults, but shields are not going to prevent that.”

Bill Mills, owner of ABC Taxi in Trenton isn’t too concerned about driver safety, although he does admit there is a possibility of installing protective shields.

All a cab really needs for business is a meter, a radio and a top light, said Mills.

Mills’ company runs 16 of the 60 cabs legislated for Quinte West and he said his cabs may be in need of a security update.

“Assaults aren’t really that common,” said Mills, who admits it is more likely to have a customer try to walk out on a fare, or pay less than the amount on the meter.

“When [assaults] do happen, we like to see that people are dealt with to the fullest extent of the law and that they don’t get away with it.”

“Incidents [like what happened in Belleville] are a rarity, but when they do happen, it’s at night when people are intoxicated and get a little stupid.

“Drivers usually have to handle those situations themselves, but they too have to be careful so that they aren’t charged with assault.”

Trenton taxi drivers serve a community of more than 19,000 and Mills said the community they serve makes all the difference.

“Our market isn’t that large compared to the bigger cities. We know most of the people we drive around and we take in less people who are flagging cabs.”
“We worry about it, but it isn’t our foremost concern at this time.”