TRANSPORT
Department of Transport

Proceedings

TAXI DRIVER SAFETY SUMMIT
AND WORKSHOP

Summary and Outcomes

Perth, Western Australia
April 1996

1. Request for Comment

What follows is a comprehensive report on the Taxi Driver Safety Summit and Workshop held on 11 April 1996.

You are invited to make comment on the recommendations contained within the report by Wednesday, 8 May 1996. While this is a brief comment period, those who attended the Summit and Workshop are keen for the strategy to be implemented.

Comments should be in writing and addressed to:

Taxi Driver Safety Summit Response
Taxi Unit
Department of Transport
PO Box 53
Nedlands WA 6909

The strategy will be finalised in early June following consideration of comments from the industy. Approximately half of the initiatives are already under way, and this process will not impede their continuation

2. Summary

This report records the effort and Commitment of the taxi industry in improving the safety of its taxi drivers.

Supported by the Minister for Transport and the Department of Transport, concerned industry members gathered for a Taxi Driver Safety Summit on 11 April. At the Summit nearly 200 drivers offered suggestions and strategies for defeating the scourge of a ssaults on taxi drivers, which have been on the rise in Perth.

The Summit was followed by a Workshop where 45 industry and other professionals melded the myriad suggestions into priority order and made the recommendations contained in this paper.

The Minister for Transport has given the Commitment to improve taxi driver safety , and with his backing the industry's recommendations will bring about a positive resut.

The outcomes of the Summit and the Workshop are only the beginning. The industry and the Department of Transport must now work quickly to make sure the strategy becomes reality.

While the question of funding may be controversial. the Industry has requested approximately $1.5M worth of initiatives to be undertaken over the next eighteen months.

The principle recommendations are:

Of these recommendations, Transport has already tendered for the development of a training system that will meet the needs of the industry, will launch an advertising campaign on 28 April for the prepayment of fares, a public education campaign is in the conceptual development phase and the investigations officers' on road presence is being increased.

The Taxi Industry Board has expressed an interest in working with the industry to develop a voluntary code of conduct and standard itidustry practices.

To ensure that the industry can be certain the safety strategy is working it will be necessary to undertake a risk assessment analysis of the industry and to establish baseline statistics. From there Transport can measure the success of the industry's r ecommendations.

The funding of the recornmendations is likely to be from the Taxi Industry Developrnent Fund, which comprises income from the issue of taxi plates by the Department of Transport.

In order for the fund to sustain the large capital and ongoing costs of the safety program, consideration will need to be given to either the introduction of an Industry levy funded by an increase in fares, or the 'drip-feeding' of additional conventional taxi plates into the system.

3. Introduction

In the first four months of 1996 there was a series of serious assaults on taxi drivers in the Perth metropolitan area.

While assaults are not uncommon in the taxi industry, the use of weapons and the severity of injuries resulting from attacks was unprecedented.

Concern within the taxi industry was strong. It was clear that there were many issues contributing to the unsafe workplace cabbies found themselves in, and that there would be as many possible solutions.

At the same time. the occupational safety arm of the State Govemment, WorkSafe, indicated its intention to start implementing enforcement strategies in the taxi industry if cabs were not made safer.

In order to facilitate an understanding of what was happening, and how improvements could be made, the Department of Transport undertook to hold a Taxi Driver Safety Summit and Workshop.

The proposal received strong taxi industty, media and bi-partisan political support.

4. Summit

All taxi drivers, owners and industry personnel were invited to the Sumnit. Approximately 200 took the opportunity to attend.

The Summit took the form of information being provided across five categories, followed by attendees offering possible solutions and raising further issues for the attention of the Workshop, which followed. The Summit took place over five hours.

The categories were defined by the following focussing questions:

By discussing each of these questions the Summit undertook to reach three outcomes:

4.1 What does WorkSafe want?

Presentation

Worksafe Inspector Stuart Hawthorn presented the legislative requirements on the industry.

WorkSafe's requirements were, in essence, a safe workplace for taxi drivers and for the owner or principle controller of that workplace to take responsibility for making it so.

Contribution from the Floor

It was clear that as many questions were raised by Stuart's ptesentation as were answered.

4.2 How does driver behaviour contribute to driver safety?

Presentation

Anthropologist. industry researcher, cabbie and base operator Ron Parker, provided an interesting insight into the risk assessment that cabbies make of passengers. That the assessment is made on in-built prejudices and is not particularly accurate at ti mes was evident. Strategies undertaken by cabbies in dealing with difficult customers was, Mr Parker believed, responsible for many of the less serious assaults faced by cabbies. The Police Service indicated that for the seven driver assaults reported i n 1993, five were principally the result of aggressive behaviour of the driver.

Mr Parker recommended that training options be implemented to make drivers more aware of how their behaviour will affect passengers, especially passengers whose judgement may be affected by alcohol or other substances.

Contribution from the Floor

It was obvious from the following responses that drivers feel they are not well equipped to deal with potentially difficult customers and are looking for training options to assist them.

4.3 What equipment can assist in protecting drivers?

Presentation

Terry Williams, Policy Officer from the Department of Transport Taxi Unit, presented a series of technological solutions, the benefits of them in reducing assaults and future options. Some technical and legal aspects were also outlined.

Contributions from the Floor

The presentation was assisted by demonstrations of a range of equipment prior to the Summit commencing. Drivers experiences from around e world added value.

  • Barrier screens, full, half and capsule, provide for a range of solutions at a range of prices. However, they can be uncomfortable for drivers and passengers.

  • Video camera surveillance has proved to be good at suppressing poor behaviour, but will not prevent attack by determined assailant.

  • Purpose built taxi cars for Australia are needed.

  • London Cabs are better than people think.

  • Money-less systems should be introduced as far as possible.

  • Cameras could cause offenders to burn a vehicle to destroy evidence.

  • All lights should flash in an emergency, operated by knee activation as in Europe.

  • The French system of a 52,000 volt shock to problem passengers to temporarily disable them should be adopted.

  • Safes welded into car would make robbing less attractive, as in New York.

  • Brake peddle switch to lock doors as in London Metro cabs would be useful.

  • Deposit money in ATM's, and advertise that little money is carried.

  • Identification of passengers given in advance at central ranks in crowded areas, as in Sweden.

  • Use air bags to restrain passengers, pin them to their seat.

    4.4 What protection does the law give drivers, and what are their rights?

    Presentation

    Judith Fordham of the Law Society presented a well received paper on how the law applies to taxi drivers. Assailants of taxi drivers are given the same consideration as assailants of Police under the law. There are more than 20 offences which apply to assaults on taxi drivers. Maximum penalties have been roughly doubled in the past year. A comparison of cases shows that there is inconsistency In the application of penalties, but people have been jailed for as long as four years for assaults on drive rs. Video taped surveillance of passengers in taxis is admissible in court. Taxi drivers can use reasonable force in protecting themselves. Pepper sprays are illegal and are classified as weapons.

    Judith's presentation was supplemented by an impromptu talk by Acting Assistant Commissioner Bob Kuckera of the WA Police Service. He reminded the audience that most offenders are not put off by stronger penalties, they do not think before attacking, in f act he doubted if many thought at all. Also, in applying reasonable force, there was still the risk you would be charged as reasonable force was a defence, not a right. Prevention was far better than prosecution after the event. The presentation wa s enthusiastically welcomed by the audience.

    Contribution from the Floor

    The cry for revenge was still strong, though there were moderating influences. A local political debate on the reintroduction of capital and corporal punishiment linked to a failure by tougher penalties to reduce crime certainly influenced the contribut ion from the floor.

    4.5 How can we help a driver if there is an incident?

    Presentation

    Michael Tunnicliffe, clinical psychologist and architect of the Taxi Industry Peer Support (TIPS) system outlined what effect an assault might have on a driver, and what can be done to minimise that trauma. More than 20 drivers in the audience had been tr aumatised by an assault.

    Contribution from the Floor

    The presentation obviously touched a soft spot with drivers who were supportive of any moves to help. Many had not reported their assaults to anybody, which contributed to the `burial' of the safety problem. It was obvious that to get a better picture of just what is happening better data is needed.

    4.6 Other Issues

    At the end of the presentation and response session the audience was asked if it was satisfied that the participants had had a good chance to express their concern and ideas and given the option to raise any additional items.

    The general response was very positive, and it was felt that the focussing questions had covered the ground that was important. There were, however, four main points which were added:

    Before the Summit closed, the participants were given the opportunity to nomlnate eight drivers froin different categories to represent them in the Workshop, along with the approximately 20 other drivers and driver repretentatives who would be attendIng.

    5. Workshop

    Having collected the above data in the morning through the participative process, there was a need to turn it into an action plan. The Workshop ran from 1:45pm to 3:45pm.

    The Workshop was attended by 45 people, more than half of whom were taxi drivers, taxi owners. taxi managers and dispatch service representatives. Additional people were the morning presenters, law enforcers, professional engineers and designers, forme r drivers who had been through an attack, and WorkSafe inspectors.

    The Workshop, as with the Summi,. was professionally facilitated. Transport's own team of trained faciitators worked with the groups.

    The groups were built around the five focussing questions and were required to determine the short, medium and long-term solutions available to improve taxi driver safety. Teams of 8 and 9 were drawn with experts in each field joining the appropriate gr oup.

    The solutions had to be rated in terms of priority and define responsibility, practicality, acceptability and cost.

    Following the presentation of the work of each team, the Workshop participants were asked to show their support or otherwise for the options raised.

    At the end of the Workshop the expected outcomes were:

    The solutions proposed by the work groups follow.

    5.1 What does WorkSafe want?

    There were two main recommendations from the team working on the WorkSafe requirements, both of which were well supported:

    Other strategies proposed by the team include:

    Action to be Taken

    WorkSafe will be asked to participate in the trial of the new training course to ensure it is satisfied the content sufficiently covers safety issues.

    The development of the training course will commence by 30 April. A trial will be undertaken by 30 June. Full implementation of training to commence in August.

    5.2 How does driver behaviour contribute to driver safety?

    Understandably, the principle theme of the team related to training, building on the work from the WorkSafe team. There was a high level of support for the recommendatIons.

    The team's principle recommendations were:

    Other recommendations were:

    Action to be Taken

    5.3 What equipment can assist in protecting drivers?

    There were short, medium and long-term solutions available. and the team looked at them all. The recommendations were strongly supported by the Workshop.

    The principle recommendations were:

    Other recommendations were:

    Action to be Taken

    5.4 What protection does the law give drivers, and what are their rIghts?

    The legal team came up with the most controversial of recommendations and was dealing with the most emotive issue - what to do with those caught attacking drivers. Although fare evasion is not directly a safety issue, drivers contended that it is dispu tes over payment that lead to the majority of assaults.

    The principle recommendations were:

    Action to be Taken

    5.5 How can we help a driver if there is an incident?

    The support team had the benefit of two drivers who have suffered through violent incidents to guide them in what could be done better. Nobody argued with the recommendations of this team.

    The principle recommendations were:

    Other recommendations were:

    Action to be Taken

    6. Funding

    The Strategies agreed to in principle at the Workshop will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $1 .5M to$ l.75M over the next twelve months (assuming subsidies are paid).

    Ongoing costs are likely to be in the vicinity of $ 100,000 to $300,000 per year.

    While the Taxi Industry Development Fund could sustain the initial capital outlay, it would be cleared out within twelve to eighteen months in meeting other budgeted Commitments.

    Options for funding raised at the Workshop included the issue of taxi plates to raise more revenue, or to have the industry fund all of its own initiatives, but raise taxi fares to allow it to do so.

    The taxi market is already tight, although it is in a moderate upswing at present. To raise fares (which are already the highest in Australian capital cities) might hinder that growth.

    Also, as the majority of initiatives would be funded by owners or managers, the lease fees would need to increase correspondingly. So it is possible that the driver, while receiving either static or lower passenger numbers, would be required to pay more to operate.

    The option of taxi plates being issued is contentious in itself. Owners and investors declare that the value of their plates would be affected by such a move. However, despite 100 plates being issued in the past eighteen months, plate values have cont inued to rise.

    Certainly, there would be no need to release new plates in one issue. It is perfectly feasible to drip-feed them into the market. For example, ten new plates over 20 months represents less than one percent of the taxi fleet, which is less than predict ed population growth.

    Certainly these issues require further consideration by the Perth taxi Industry.

    Initiatives to be taken in the country are all the more difficult, as there Is no industry fund. The industry does not cover the cost of its administration. Further talks to determine options will be necessary with the country taxi associations.

    One thing is essential. That is, the initiative must not be lost in a wrangle over finding.

    The Taxi Industry Board has previously recommended that the Minister release up to ten conventional taxi plates to fund safety strategies. Given the size of the commitment comIng out of the Summit and Workshop, that recommendation may be appropriate.

    7. Conclusion

    The Summit and Workshop were a great example of what the industry can do when it comes together in a spirit of cooperation to overcome its problems. It was essential for credibility that the various stakeholders came to agreed positions to enable propos als to get off the ground.

    However. the Summit and Workshop were just the beginning. There are numerous actions required to turn the safety of the taxi driver around.

    Some things can not be changed simply. There is a more violent element operating in our society, especially as it grows from the `big country town' into a modern, complex and socially stratified city. Taxi drivers give witness to the seamy side of lif e more than the common citizen, and are only too aware that self-respect has given way to belligerence, and respect for others is sometimes a joke.

    Drug testing among the young has had a particularly bad effect on the safety of taxi operators. While drunks are hard to deal with, they are generally predictable in their actions. However, as many night drivers will attest, it is anybody's guess wha t a drug-affected person is going to do next.

    The incidence of known violence on taxi drivers, and particularly serious violence, is relatively low in Perth compared to major Australian capitals and certainly compared to American cities. This is no excuse to be complacent.

    The Summit and Worlkshop were really about ways of containing the growing problem to prevent the further reduction in the enjoyment of taxi driving as a living. It is a defence strategy.

    The commitment to improving the safety of taxi drivers given by the Minister at the Summit opening is borne out by the number of initiatives to be progressed. Together with the industry as one this strategy will make a difference.


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