Shortly thereafter, a number of taxi industry representatives met with the Attorney General and staff of the ministry of Attorney General to identify a process for addressing driver safety concerns. The result was the formation of the Taxi Drivers Task Force.
The Task Force consists of a Steering Committee and a Working Group. The mandate of the Task Force is to:
The Steering Committee includes the ADMs [Assistant Deputy Ministers] of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Branches as well as representatives of the taxi industry, WCB [Workers' Compensation Branch], BC Transit, the I&T Union, Loc.11 and the police.The purpose of the Steering Committee is to review the issues, options and recommendations developed by the Working Group and to communicate recommendations to government.
The purpose of the Working Group is to provide a forum and opportunity for industry representatives and affected groups to identify the range of issues and options associated with driver safety in the workplace. The Working Group will develop an Issue and Options Paper that outlines the environment and specific challenges associated with driver safety. The Working Group will also develop a Recommendation document designed to assist and guide the Steering Committee's final recommendations to government.
This document represents the final draft of the Issues and Options Discussion Paper. The information contained in this draft arose out of Working Group discussions and information provided by industry representatives. This draft is being circulated to the Working Group participants for their comments. These comments will guide the Working Group in finalizing the Issues and Options Paper, as well as developing the final list of Recommendations for presentation to the Steering Committee.
The principal issues identified by industry representatives and other members of the Working Group fall into three general categories:
Participants on the Task Force frequently noted the importance of increasing education in order to address the safety issues facing public transportation drivers. Opportunities and methods for improving driver safety through education have been identified and are listed below.
Education needs will also vary depending on local circumstance. For example, in some regions, dealing with people unpaired by alcohol is the principal safety issue, In other areas, strategies on how to deal effectively with people impaired by drugs are the key concern.
Several jurisdictions, such as Anchorage, Alaska, have recently implemented computer dispatch systems which improve driver safety (for example by locating the driver in a timely manner). Several options were identified and are listed below. However, industry representatives noted that many independent taxi drivers do not have the capacity or resources to implement many of these changes.
Equipment, which is designed to enhance driver safety, may also have the unintended side effect of reducing customer service. For example, the City of Vancouver earlier proposed the installation of shields between drivers and passengers in taxis. The industry opposed this concept on the basis that it would be expensive, indicate to passengers that the City was not safe, and would reduce the opportunity to communicate with their passengers.
There was a widely held view amongst several industry representatives that while same equipment may enhance driver safety, most examples from other jurisdictions indicate they are of limited value. The industry representatives also emphasized the need for any equipment devices to be affordable, given the drivers' ability to pay for these changes.
Members af the Working Group acknowledge that any legislative changes, such as amendments to the Criminal Code,. will require a significant amount of time to achieve. Any changes will be co-ordinated through the Criminal Justice Branch to ensure the approach is consistent with other public safety objectives. Possible changes include increasing the fines and penalties for robberies and assaults.
There is also a significant lack of baseline data that accurately measures the scope and nature of the safety issues faced by public transportation drivers. Many of the experiences described by industry representatives are very real, but anecdotal (for example the lack of a response from police or Crown in various cases).
While members of the Working Group have indicated that they want to see changes to legislation, shorter-term options have also been discussed. These include:
Drivers to provide the Working Group with additional information such as trends or increases in activities which threaten driver safety (for example, using taxi's to conduct illegal drug transactions in urban centers).
All members of the Working Group acknowledge the key role that the WCB and ICBC play in improving safety for public transportation drivers.
The Worker's Compensation Branch is responsible for establishing and enforcing standards and guidelines related to safety in the workplace, industry representatives re-iterated their desire to work with the WCB in clarifying policy and compensation for drivers who are the victims of robberies and physical assaults.
ICBC is also a key partner in identifying options that will enhance driver safety. Industry representatives noted that the taxi and bus services they provide contribute significantly to reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road.
The Working Group identified the option of developing a Business Case that clearly outlines the benefits public transportation drivers provide to the community and in particular, potential funding partners. For example, taxi and bus drivers help to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road, which contributes to a reduction in crashes and accidents as well as the other social casts associated with unsafe driving. The Business Case could be used to help obtain partners to fund the education and legislative initiatives noted above, as well as to partially compensating drivers who take time off work to pursue court cases.
Research was conducted in order to identify the range of issues and strategies other jurisdictions have used to help improve public transportation driver safety. The results of this research reside with the Public Safety and Regulatory Branch and are available to review upon request.
The research indicates that no single strategy has been found to be effective in ensuring driver safety. ln some jurisdictions, the focus has been on education, such as training drivers on how to deal with difficult customers while in others, the focus has been on introducing new technology such as camera's, shields and alarms.
This paper attempts to provide the full range of options as various Working Goup participants have identified them.
The following recommendations attempt to reflect the different priorities between industry representatives from various regions of the province. For example, several taxi drivers from the Victoria regions provided valuable input on the issues of education and signage. Alternatively, drivers from the lower mainland focused their comments on the need to improve communication between drivers, police and Crown.
These recommendations are therefore offered as a "range" and with the understanding that drivers in some regions may wish to pursue all of them, while others focus on a particular few.
Establish ongoing Implementation Groups with members of the driver industry, local police and Crown. The purpose of these groups is to:
Initially, Implementation Groups should be established in the Lower Mainland and Capital Region. Additional groups can be established within other communities based on the degree of local interest. Information and action arising out of the implementation groups will be available to other communities through the Public Safety and Regulatory Branch.
The Implementation Groups will also serve as venues in which drivers, police and Crown can identify additional strategies to enhance drive safety.
That the Ministry of Attorney General, Public Safety and Regulatory Branch facilitate the initial meetings of these Implementation Groups. Participants from the public transportation drivers industry, police and Crown would subsequently assume responsibility for conducting these meetings.
That the Implementation Groups submit a written report to the ADM, Public Safety and Regulatory Branch which outlines their activities, progress and outputs, on a quarterly basis.
That an ad hoc committee on Training is established. The purpose of this committee will be to identify the issues, components, resources and time frames associated with designing and implementing a Public Transportation Drivers Safety Program.
That the Implementation Groups review the Options identified by this Task Force and introduce the education, training and equipment strategies which will be most effective in their communities.
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