On Matters Relative to Taxi Driver Safety



Rate of Murdered Taxi Drivers

Through primitive research through newspaper reports over many years, Charles Rathbone, Norm Beattie and others have determined that to date, at least 652 taxi drivers have been murdered over time. A running record is being maintained at:

www.taxi-l.org/murdrate.htm

These are only the ones we know about. Newspaper reports are an incredibly primitive method of conducting such research, but fundamentally there is nothing else available that comes anywhere close to revealing the truth.

News gathering capabilities are basically limited to some of the more industrialized nations. News gathering capability in most other portions of the world are dramatically more primitive. As a consequence, the murder rate of taxi drivers in the USA (146), while undeniably dramatic, is not necessarily because there are more, but more likely because the more efficient North American media reports more of them.

We hear virtually nothing out of China, the Far East, South America, Central Americas, Russia, Eastern European nations, Africa, India sub-continent, etc. We have absolutely no idea of how many taxi drivers are being murdered in these other countries where media coverage is not as efficient as in the principal nations represented.

Norm Beattie has done extensive research into murdered taxi drivers in Canada and has turned up 16 more than previously recorded, with the count now up to 90. Our In-Mem list will soon be amended accordingly. If a similar depth of analysis and research was conducted by somebody into murdered taxi drivers in the USA, how high would be body count rise?

We all know that the two lists on TAXI-L are so significantly understated, it would not be unreasonable to perceive 2,000+ taxi drivers, worldwide representation, have been murdered over time, yet nobody seems to notice or really care. However, 2,000+ people, worldwide representation, are murdered on 9-11 in an instant, and the world goes to war, spending billions in the process.

What's it going to take to declare war on those who murder taxi drivers? They indeed are terrorists who hide in plain view. Yet compared to how the world reacted to punish the 9-11 terrorists, all we seem able to do about the terrorists who murder taxicab drivers is wring our hands, and spend nickels and dimes.

What's it going to take?

(From an InterNet discussion 27 February 2002)


Winnipeg homicide news

On 5 Aug 2001, Charles Rathbone noted, following a news article appearing in the Winnipeg Free Press to the effect that a 1989 provision for mandatory safety shields in Winnipeg was never exercised:

Leaving safety devices up to the discretion of owners guarantees that a perverse economic incentive will arise, effectively blocking any investment in driver safety.

In 1989, I was on the staff of the regulatory authority in Winnipeg when a driver was murdered. In response to industry demands for mandatory safety shields, a working group was struck, including full industry representation. Out of that group, the "Safety Shields" report and companion regulation emerged. Local industry representatives signed off on this report at the time.

The Taxicab Board at the time felt strongly that they could not design a shield, could not pay for a shield, nor could they unilaterally mandate a specific shield. The Board did feel an equally strong responsibility to define what a safety shield must do, and that they did.

The Board was most reluctant to unilaterally mandate safety shields on its own authority, in part in recognition that while shields will help to protect drivers, they are not certain. Drivers will continue to be assaulted and murdered, albeit in reduced numbers. The Board did not want to put the government in a position of liability if a driver was injured or murdered in a taxicab equipped with a shield.

That Safety Shields report and its companion regulation are available on TAXI-L's web site. See:

www.taxi-l.org/shields.htm

The Manitoba Regulation 41/90 appended to this report details specifications about what a shield must do. It's objective was to provide a set of meaningful specifications with which the local industry could negotiate in confidence with shields manufacturers.

Upon presentation to the Board of a proposed shield satisfactory to the industry, the Board was prepared to approve that design, assuming it met the specs and passed the Vehicle Inspection processes. Following that approval, shields meeting the specs would become mandatory for all taxicabs in the city. This approval process was signed off by both industry leaders and driver representatives. The report included a provision for a fare increase to pay for the shields.

In the months following, a number of notices were sent to all licence holders, reminding them of their obligations under Workplace Safety legislation and their own commitment as detailed in that Safety Shields report. Throughout this time, the Board made routine inquiries of a number of shields manufacturers and determined that none were approached for a design and quotation.

The current Board Secretary is correct in her statement to the effect that the Board removed the "mandatory" requirement and made shields "voluntary". That decision was made about a year ago in response to industry demands for "voluntary" shields. It seems nobody in the local industry wanted to be seen as the one who provoked "mandatory" shields.

In the past year, following removal of the "mandatory" requirement, and substitution of the "voluntary" provision, there are still no safety shields installed in Winnipeg's taxicabs. Curiously, there has never, ever been a specific prohibition against anybody voluntarily installing a safety shield, yet nobody has ever done it.

Now another driver has been murdered in Winnipeg, and the demand has re-emerged to make safety shields mandatory. And, like 12 years ago, a working group has once again is being struck with membership from industry leaders, drivers, regulatory agencies, consumer protection groups, users, and Workplace Safety reps, etc.

History is repeating itself. It may well be that Charles Rathbone's observations may well be right on the mark.

Regards,

Terry

(From an InterNet discussion 6 August 2001)


about the number of cabbie deaths......

Off the InterNet, the following comments emerged:

I understand driving a cab is a more life threatening profession than police work...Does anyone know how many cabbies were killed while working in the past year and/or 12 months in the United States....In the world?

WE HAVE ASKED THAT QUESTION
MANY MANY TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THEY DONT GIVE A DAMM!

This is a very difficult situation to quantify, due to a variety of factors. The dominant difficulty is the continuing, if not expanding, environment of the "independent contractor", which effectively removes the mayhem inflicted on taxi drivers from official databases.

Vast majority of occupational safety databases have their origin in other official databases used in the administration of workers compensation, employment insurance, health insurance, life insurance, employee pension plans, police reports, and so on. The majority of these relate to "employees", thus excluding independent contractors.

As a consequence, the assaults, robberies and murders inflicted on taxi drivers simply do not get included in official databases. This is not a condemnation, it is simply the way it is. We really do not know just how bad it is. Common sense tells us that the situation is bad, very bad, but the absence of hard data is a severe impediment to official action.

OSHA, and its subsidiary NIOSH, have come up with some hard data, but at great cost, emerging out of visual review of a large number of death certificates from all over the USA. It is understood that the funding for this extremely costly data collection exercise has been withdrawn. So basically what we have from these folks is a snapshot at a moment in time. Their reports are posted on our TAXI-L web site.

Police reports are a very poor source of this data, as each individual police department maintains its own incident report database in its own format and filing system. Virtually impossible to gather and consolidate into a single meaningful database. Many police departments do not maintain "occupation" as a singificant piece of information on these incident reports, thus ruling out computer searches.

Drivers themselves contribute to the vagaries of the data collection exercise because of their widespread reluctance to report assaults and robberies. Again, as most are independent contractors, they are not reimbursed for the time they take attending to the official reporting processes. So, if the assault is not life threatening, it simply does not get reported. This situation is believed to be widespread, but absolutely impossible to quantify.

However imperfect it may be, these incidents do emerge in the nation's press, but rarely with any degree of consistent reporting. Certainly, most assaults and many murders never hit the international wire services. The media world appears to have become numb, somewhat uninterested in such stories, certainly not beyond "local news" reporting. In my daily InterNet quest for news items, little shows up in the modest on-line sources.

Very typically, most tragedies involving murder or serious injury of taxi drivers are immediately followed by intense media scrutiny and emotionally charged industry demands for regulatory intervention for improved taxi driver safety. For whatever reason, it is the media that time after time focuses immediate attention on the controversy surrounding safety shields.

Charlotte, NC, is a current example of this phenomena. A driver was murdered last week, the media picked up on it, local regulatory folk are being exposed to intense heat to do something, and action is now underway to review their regulatory environment.

Unfortunately, the regulatory forces simply cannot ever immediately implement safety measures without thorough review and consideration. Regretably, much of what they are left with to review is nothing more profound than anecdotal evidence, never strong enough to sustain official scutiny.

In the middle of all this turmoil is a relatively quiet group of licence holders who, in an environment of seemingly limitless supply of willing drivers, are understandably reluctant to spend significant sums of money for driver protection. Yes, shields help. Yes, GPS helps. Yes, in-car cameras help. Yes, training helps.

But none of these devices or techniques are infallible. With any or all, drivers will continue to be assaulted, robbed and murdered, albeit in reduced numbers. In most workplace safety legislation, responsibility for provision of a safe workplace rests squarely on the shoulders of the licence holder, regardless of the manner in which a driver has been engaged.

It is not a regulatory responsibility to provide a safe workplace. The regulator cannot design or provide a shield; cannot design or provide an in-car camera, cannot design or provide a GPS system to quickly find a driver in peril. What the regulator can and should do is define what these devices must do (standards), and ensure that licence holders provide a safe workplace on the principle of reasonable accomodation.

Any attempt by the regulator to mandate a specific safety shield, a specific in-car camera, a specific method of finding a driver in peril, carries with it imbedded acceptance of some measure of liability, something regulatory authorities are simply forbidden to do.

None are infallible, drivers will continue to be murdered so long as the lure of raw cash is allowed to exist. Remove the lure and the lion's share of the risk is removed. Society is moving relentlessly towards a cashless environment. Little by little, as sources of raw cash evaporate, each leaves taxi drivers just that much more vulnerable. So long as cash prevails, it is inevitable that drivers will become an ever increasing target for assaults and robberies.

I do not believe it to be true that, "They Don't Give a Damm!". Regulatory authorities do care, and do want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, just what is the right thing to do is something over which a giant tug-o-war is at work. Who will win?

Thoughts of others..........?

Regards,

Terry

From an InterNet discussion 14 December 1998


Why Do Taxi Drivers Take So Many Risks?

A recent observation on the InterNet lamented that:

I feel sorry for those who really get upset about taxi driver safety. They are banging their heads against a brick wall simply because most people - their colleagues, competitors - are willing to take the risks.

I totally agree with this observation and offer another element into this rather complex equation. Yes, far too many drivers, dominantly IC's I suspect, are prepared to take great risks, gambling that "it won't happen to me", to make more money.

Yes, more money that the tax man does not get to know about. Many of these leading-edge safety devices also carry with them an unavoidable audit trail - subpoenable records admissable in tax court.

For example, Unicity Taxi here in Winnipeg, with 333 vehicles, has a DDS GPS based dispatch system. However, scuttlebut off the street has it that approximately 40-50 of these shareholder owners (all IC's) have disconnnected not only the GPS antenna, but also the system from the vehicle odometer. Only the meter seems to remain connected, although there are concerns that even they are sometimes fiddled with. Too bad the regulatory resources aren't there to properly check out these allegations.

Canadian federal tax auditors have yet to develop a way to successfully audit a taxicab business. The biggest impediment is atomization; approximately 360 IC's hold the 400 Winnipeg licences currently in force. Canadian tax laws currently force auditors to deal with this situation one IC at a time.

There are a number of cases currently inching their way through the federal tax court here in Winnipeg as test cases, a process that has been dragging on for 5 years now, with no resolution in sight. In Winnipeg, there are only 2 auditors, one a federal income tax auditor and the other a federal GST (Goods & Services Tax) auditor. Like all their professional colleagues, they have a huge case load, and the taxi industry is just one small part of it.

And the only reason we have 2 auditors at all is that one of them, some 5 years ago, took an interest in this industry, and set out to try to develop an audit procedure and formulae that might be transferrable to elsewhere in Canada. These 2 civil servant auditors are no match for the local industry and its expert tax lawyers, who have no difficulty at all in relentless actions stalling for time.

Safety features like GPS and in-car cameras are seen by such IC's as an intrusion into their "right" to "manage" their business as each feels fit. No consistency, no subpoenable records of note, even the vehicles enter into the equation to hide the revenue.

Yes, far too many drivers are quite prepared to impose a formidable barrier to implementation of various safety devices. And regulatory authorities are equally reluctant to mandate certain specific safety devices, knowing they are imperfect and an ensuing tragedy may well involve them in a lawsuit for mandating something that did not work.

I'm hopeful that one day, researchers will have the resources to embrace forensic audits of this atomized industry, as a companion to deaths, assaults and robberies.

It is interesting that here in Canada, the legislation and companion regulations relative to the federal GST, have within them the authority to mandate that the taxi industry throughout Canada implement leading edge technology to track both the vehicle and the money. Why this authority has not been exercised continues to be a mystery.

From a discussion on the InterNet 2 October 1998


Safety Devices

Back in 1989, in the Las Vegas area, an electronics engineer named Jerry Newton (believed to be Wayne Newton's brother), owner of Image-Comm Corp., developed an early in-car video camera aimed at protecting taxi drivers. It was an all-up system at the time, GPS based, video still pictures of each occupant transmitted to base, and made cost-effective by tying it into an in-car cell-phone for customer use.

At the time, the regulatory authority was very much in favour of the system, and did endorse it. It was not made mandatory, but voluntary on the presumption that since it was a money maker, it would sell itself.

It fell flat. Not a single system was installed. Much later, in private conversation with many drivers over time, Jerry learned that the critical issue was "privacy". Not the customer's privacy, but rather the driver's privacy. They simply did not want anyone knowing what was going on inside their taxicabs.

This is anecdotal hearsay with no quantifiable research behind it. But let there be no doubt about it, Jerry was absolutely convinced he had a good cost-effective idea, but was defeated by irrational impediments.

Personally, I doubt very much that passenger privacy is or ever was an issue. Society today is constantly under a camera's eye somewhere and nobody is complaining. Nobody that is except the bad guys.

It is a sad commentary on society today that surveillence cameras in cabs are considered by some to be necessary at all, but even sadder that those needing the protection provided are resisting for the wrong reasons.

So who's in charge? Truth is, everybody in such a highly atomized industry. But when everybody is in charge, then nobody is in charge. Today's demonstration around San Francisco's City Hall is simply yet another example of the constant turmoil emerging out of the "leasing" organizational structure.

Such demonstrations are focusing on the wrong target. The regulatory authority is not and must not ever become the personnel department for the industry. It's the industry's responsibility to protect its own, an exercise in futility so long as leasing is allowed to flourish.

Courageous leadership by the regulator is required to put an end to this scourge. That it continues at all is clear evidence of "regulatory capture". Dr. Fingleton expresses it well. His paper (The Dublin Taxi Market) is mandatory reading.

From an InterNet discussion 17 December 1997


Shields in Winnipeg

It has been reported that safety shields were put in Winnipeg taxicabs at great cost and then taken out. Sorry, whomever made this statement is not correct. Had this person checked out the Winnipeg situation before making such statements, he would have learned that not a single shield was ever installed. Here's what happened.

A regulatory authority cannot, nor should not ever design a safety shield, sell a safety shield, nor build a safety shield. What a regulatory authority must do is specify exactly what a safety shield must do. And that has already been done. The Manitoba Safety Shields Report does contaiun such specifications.

Within that report on-line is Manitoba Regulation 41/90 which is still on the books, and has never kicked in. The objective of the regulation was to make it possible for local industry leaders to negotiate with shields suppliers in confidence on their own initiative.

Section 2(2) of the regulation provides for mandatory installation for all operators 90 days after the Taxicab Board first approves the design of a shield under subsection 4(1). Section 4(1) provides general guidelines to the Taxicab Board relative to approval or otherwise.

To the best of my knowledge, not a single shields manufacturer has ever been contacted to provide a shield meeting these specifications. The Taxicab Board has never received a request to approve a safety shield meeting these specifications.

There has never been a prohibition against voluntary installation of a safety shield. Anybody may do this without Board approval so long as the shield passes an inspection by the vehicle inspection folks at Motor Vehicle Branch. So far as I know, not a single safety shield has ever been voluntarily installed in any Winnipeg taxicab.

So, in answer to the statement, not a single safety shield has been installed in a Winnipeg taxicab, and consequently not a single shield has ever been removed at great cost.

From an InterNet discussion 22 November 1996


Taxis On Patrol

The ITLA is to be commended for their initiative in formalizing the Taxis On Patrol program. Yes, it's not a new concept, it's already working in a number of cities, under a number of names, under a number of parameters. But more disturbing, it is not working in far more communities. The concept is fundamentally sound and socially desireable.

The goal is to enhance crime prevention through the watchful eyes and ears of taxi drivers. I'm deeply troubled when I hear serious opposition "...because the cops won't give me a break; the cops won't come when I need them anyways; why bother....." Sorry folks, that just doesn't wash.

Crime is everbody's concern and responsibility to do something about it in one way or another. Crime inflicted on taxi drivers is ever increasing, ever more ominously. It will not shrink or go away because taxi drivers side with the bad guys. Taxi drivers are responsible citizens, no different than any other law-abiding citizen. If that not be true, then they should not be out there behind the wheel at all.

Driving a taxi is part of a public utility providing personalized transportation. The general public has a right and perfectly reasonable expectation that all taxi drivers are law-abiding citizens in whom they can place their trust for a safe journey for their loved ones.

That public trust is sacred. It is It should not ever be criticized. It is there in most all other forms of public services, forming a fundamental cornerstone of service excellence. Because the taxicab industry lacks unity of command and control is a not a reason to violate that public trust. Each and every one of us, regardless if we are an employee or an independent contractor, have a duty and an obligation to uphold that public trust and live the golden rule.

The TOP program is nothing more than applied common sense, but done in reasonably consistent manner across the continent, if not the entire world. All citizens have a duty and an obligation to support their local police force. They do so without expectation of special favors or consideration.

Police forces have a responsibility to apply the law as reasonably consistent as possible. Their job is made significantly more effective with the willing participation of all citizens. Taxi drivers, with their extended eyes, ears and conscience, have an imbedded additional duty by virtue of public trust, to be particularly helpful to the police, moreso than average citizens.

The TOP program has nothing whatsoever to do with leniency and special treatment. To expect such is unreasonable and inappropriate. A taxi driver who breaks the law should expect to be treated no different than any other citizen who breaks the law, no matter how trivial or serious. TOP has everything to do with simple acceptance of everybody's duty to support their local police force.

Civic budgets and crime are on an escalating collision course. There can never ever be enough policemen to deal with every increasing crime. It is absolutely imperative that all citizens, including taxi drivers, contribute in whatever way they can to combating crime.

TOP should not ever be criticized. It is a worthwhile program which should be willingly, enthusiastically embraced and supported everywhere.

From an InterNet discussion 8 October 1997


Cameras & Footage

A few nights ago, there was a television documentary on "The Most Dangerous .... ", narrated by Stacey Keach. It focused on the most dangerous "places", the most dangerous "stunts", the most dangerous whatever... When it came to the most dangerous "occupation", it focused on convenience store clerks, without even mentioning taxi drivers, once again implying by ommission that driving a taxi is not a dangerous occupation.

However, this was a television documentary. TV needs footage. And footage they had lots of, emerging from surveillance cameras in convenience stores. If this television documentary had been able to lay its hands on footage emerging from in-car video cameras, it is likely that driving a taxi would have received its due attention as the most dangerous occupation.

We now have hard data that clearly supports our perception that driving a taxi is indeed the most dangerous occupation. Society is very much aware that convenience store clerks have a dangerous job because the media is fed a stream of supporting visual evidence.

Society has a diminishing awareness of just how dangerous is the occupation of driving a taxi because the media folks are not getting the visual evidence, and with so much mayhem going on, they have become hardened. The mayhem is disappearing from the pages of our newspapers. The trend suggests taxi drivers risk becoming forgotten victims.

With all the discussion going on about in-car video cameras, are there any in actual use, and has any footage emerged from their use that perhaps the media folks should have copies of? I've seen some promotional footage, but have not yet seen a single inch of real mayhem inflicted on a driver on the job. Anybody know of any?

From an InterNet discussion 20 September 1996


Some Thoughts on Taxi Driver Safety

by Terry Smythe

I've been following this discussion on taxi driver safety, actually starting with my own studies of this universally important concern as far back as 1989, and have some thoughts to add. I emphasis that my perceptions are just that, they are not quantitatively definitive, but I'm hopeful they will provoke continuing consideration and positive discussion.

Safety Shields

The controversy over safety shields will, I believe, always be with us. It appears to be more a function of media manufacturing news than genuine industry concern. Without fail, immediately following a tragedy, the newspapers carry a story about "the continuing debate over safety shields".

Having seen it in action, this consistent "debate" emerges when aggressive reporters reach into their archives for previous tragedies, then artfully goad industry representatives into quotable quotes on the "need for safety shields".

I am not an opponent of safety shields, but neither am I an enthusiastic supporter. I do believe they offer some protection, along with some protection offered by each of many devices, systems and techniques.

I believe safety shields offer the best protection when they are an integrated design element within a vehicle specifically designed for the purpose. The best contemporary vehicles are those patterned after the venerable London Taxi.

They are wheelchair accessible, roomy, and the safety shield being integrated into the driver seat/compartment, is not at all intrusive into passenger comfort. The safety shield in such a vehicle is not advertised as such, but rather as a privacy shield.

A safety shield as an add-on does provide protection. Of that, there is no dispute. It is also very intrusive into passenger comfort, generating a widespread perception it is bad for business. The truth is that many millions of rides are trouble free, compared to the few that are not.

A most critical issue we must all face is that conventional 4-door family sedans, the current taxicab of choice, are ever shrinking in size. It is absolutely inevitable that the finite supply of such vehicles large enough to accept a shield, will evaporate. It is already happening, as evidenced by the ever increasing number of older Lincolns and Cadillacs pressed into service as taxicabs.

When the Checker Cab Co. went out of business, the taxicab industry in North America was deprived of a vehicle specifically designed for the purpose. Ever since then, as the supply of Checkers dwindled, the standard 4-door family sedan has been pressed into service as a substitute. Now even they are dwindling. Inevitably, the supply of big Cadillacs and Lincolns will similarly dwindle, then what...........?

With the arrival of the U.S. Americans With Disabilities Act, the focus on wheelchair accessible taxicabs has renewed. In the UK, the "Conditions of Fitness" rules will include mandatory wheelchair accessibility by the year 2008. The London Cab and all its imitators world wide will take on a whole new life of their own.

Nearly 20 years ago, the need for such a vehicle was recognized and well documented by "The Taxi Project", a display of purpose built taxicabs at the New York Museum of Modern Art 17 June 1976 to 6 September 1976.

Transportation of people with disabilities was a recognized need then, and several of the vehicles bore a striking resemblance to today's accessible taxicab in both minivan and London Cab form. Several of the vehicles contained privacy shields integrated into the driver's seat/compartment, also providing added driver safety.

The need for a purpose built taxicab continues to grow, but simple economics intrude dramatically. Older large 4-door family sedans are considerably cheaper than new purpose built vehicles. But as the finite supply of large 4 door family sedans dwindles, decision time will be upon us.

Global Positioning System

For nearly 20 years, a constellation of satellites (now up to the full complement of 24) has been circling the globe at an altitude of 11,000 miles. The U.S. military put them there, and in recent years have made them available at no cost to the civilian world for navigation purposes offering incredible accuracy.

Absolutely every spot on the entire globe has a unique address, expressed in latitude/longitude terminology. Military accuracy down to less than 1 meter is possible, but for all practical and economic reason, accuracy to within 100 meters is quite acceptable for most applications, including the requirements of the taxicab industry.

These satellites continuously broadcast signals unique to each. A vehicle equipped with a GPS receiver can locate and receive signals from at least 3 of these satellites at all times. Each of these satellites, at specific moments, are each at different distances from the receiver which recognizes each of them, and computes the elapsed time it has taken for the signal from each to reach the receiver.

By simple triangulation computations, the receiver is able to compute its location on the face of the earth to within 100 meters. The result of that computation can then be transmitted to a base computer every x seconds/minutes, making it possible to track the whereabouts of all vehicles in a fleet, or a specific vehicle.

An early application for such a system for taxicabs was developed in late 1989 by a clever engineer, Mr. Jerry Newton, President, Image-Comm Corp., Las Vegas, NV. At that time, it emerged in response to concerns about taxi driver safety, and was a consolidation of both GPS based emergency location, and a tiny video still camera mounted on the dashboard.

Its cost then was estimated at some $4,600 (US) per unit, based on a minimum order of 150 units. It was a costly consideration at the time, but Mr. Newton cleverly covered system costs by linking location data into a companion cellular telephone in the vehicle. The cell phone would ordinarily be available for conventional cell phone usage at $2/minute, thus generating the necessary incremental income to pay for the system in less than 1 year.

Since then, dramatic advances in leading edge technology have made it possible to manufacture GPS based systems for vehicles at significantly lower cost, where today a large number of taxicab companies are installing such systems.

Where the initial motivation was to quickly locate a taxi driver in peril, it has now swung around to recognition that the real value in GPS based systems is in vehicle dispatch. Emergency vehicle location is acquired as an automatic by-product of the dispatch system at no additional incremental cost.

I totally support the concept of GPS based dispatch system for the taxicab industry. I see it as a most significant evolutionary development.

Wireless Data Transmission

The Stone Report of January 1995, concluded that, "... as the amount of cash based fares decrease, driver security will increase as the financial incentive for assault and robbery is eliminated." If the lure of cash is removed, the lion's share of the risk to taxi drivers evaporates.

It is encouraging to note that many of the new GPS based dispatch systems also include an open-throat card reader right on the terminal. Such systems position the company to progressively migrate to cashless transactions, using credit cards, debit cards, most favoured customer credit cards, social agency credit cards, etc.

In 1994, there were only a handful of merchants offering wireless data transmission products and systems. Yet only a year later in the Spring of 1995, some 440 such vendors and 13,000 wireless industry executives descended on New Orleans, site of the industry trade show and conference of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

We have just begun to see the beginning of mammoth changes in reliability of such products and services, along with companion sharp cost reductions. Consider for a moment a future scenario where:

1. The regulatory authority issues an annual taxi driver licence containing a mag stripe down its back containing driver ID data.

2. A taxicab company equips all its vehicles with a GPS receiver and open throat card reader.

3. A driver, at shift start, wipes his licence through the reader to log into the base computer. All subsequent credit transactions are credited to him. It's up to next driver to repeat the log-in procedure, else all credit transactions will continue to be credited to previous driver.

4. All credit transactions throughout the shift get automatically verified and credited to that driver, simply by wiping his customer's credit card through the reader which picks up the meter reading, hesitates momentarily for addition of a tip if customer so wishes, then fully automatically transmits the data to base computer.

5. If the driver services the airport, the same licence can be used to trigger opening of a controlled entry system gate, and record the driver data into the database.

6. At shift end, the driver triggers off a daily report for his own records, likely out of the receipt printing meter, of all transactions, both cash and credit, as a significant addendum to his trip sheet made a whole lot easier to maintain.

This scenario is technically possible today, offers considerable hope for not only huge improvements in company administration, but also driver safety.

Training

There is no denying that the emotional intensity of a robbery or assault is a major intrusion into rational reaction to the situation. However, all drivers can be given that critical edge by quality safety training in techniques of risk avoidance and crisis management.

Gord Barton offers a 28 point Taxi Driver Safety program of instruction during his 4 day Taxi Driver Training program on behalf of the Manitoba Taxicab Board. These 28 points are intended to help taxi drivers recognize and deal with potentially dangerous situations. He has noted that very few of his graduates are victims.

What is critical is that the training be intense and thorough. It is not enough to casually offer a few hints in a 20 minute session within a 1 day mandatory training program. Mr. Barton believes it absolutely imperative that they receive a minimum 1/2 day session to thoroughly cover this critical portion of their training.

Just How Dangerous is it?

While policy can be determined and implemented without hard data, better policy can be made with good data. Of this, there can be no question. Unfortunately, since the early 70's, when the "independent contractor" was born, hard data has been difficult to acquire because most official databases of occupational hazards and safety have as their origin Workers' Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, Group Insurance, et al.

Because a large number of taxi drivers are independent contractors, the mayhem being inflicted upon them does not show up on official databases. Furthermore, because drivers are rarely compensated for lost time for official reporting of assaults and robberies, many (believed to be a huge majority) are never reported, so police and justice records also do not reflect the true situation.

NIOSH, the U.S. Dept. of Labour, and some noteworthy academic achievements are beginning to focus due attention to the need for much better data to determine just how dangerous is this occupation of driving a taxicab. There is absolutely no doubt that it is likely the most dangerous occupation of all, but just how dangerous, in terms of hard statistically valid data, will likely not be known for some time to come.

I believe that when hard data eventually emerges, we will see that the occupation of driving a taxi is in fact dramatically more dangerous than current data would suggest.

From an InterNet discussion September 1997


Violence Continues to Escalate

by Terry Smythe

In recent weeks, two taxi drivers were murdered in Broward County, just north of Miami, Florida. Also in recent weeks, extreme violence has been inflicted upon taxi drivers in a number of Canadian cities - Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, London (Ontario). The dramatic escalation of violence inflicted taxi drivers, recently confirmed once again by hard data emerging out of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, is no longer confined to the big metropolitan centres. No community is immune.

Up on the InterNet, a Swedish taxi journalist posed in anguish:

"Will this circle of violence, death and stupidity never end?"

Not until the lure is removed. So long as the criminal and drug afflicted elements of our society know the lure is there, the violence will continue to escalate as ever increasing segments of our society migrate to cashless transactions. As sources of raw cash continue to shrink from assailant's grasp, the focus of violence will escalate ever more sharply on taxi drivers, one of the few remaining known sources. Sad but true.

A recent news item out of Singapore reported that a man who robbed, with a knife, two taxi drivers in one night was sentenced to a total of five years' jail and ordered to be given 14 strokes of the cane. This was the punishment imposed for robberies netting a total of $3.00. Perhaps the legal system in the Far East has a better way of deterring assaults until such time as the cashless cab becomes a reality.

Recently the Montreal Taxi Bureau took an unusual and innovative approach to finding solutions to the awesome mayhem being inflicted on taxi drivers. On 6 December 1996, on premises provided by the Bureau, a Taxi Driver Security Conference was organized. It emerged out of continuing joint efforts by the police, regulator, and the taxi community to improve taxi driver safety.

In 1990 following the murder of a taxi driver, the Montreal Taxi Bureau collaborated with the taxi industry to organize a Security Round Table consisting of representatives from the taxi owners or leagues, taxi dispatching companies or associations, the police department, the Quebec Ministry of Transport, the Montreal Urban Community Transport Commission, the Quebec Automobile Insurance Association, and the Quebec Transport Commission. The Round Table implemented a number of safety programs.

As reported on the InterNet, the turn out for this event was great. There were regulators, drivers, and owners from all over Canada who attended and helped sponsor the proceedings. Many local drivers, owners and driver leagues attended as well. Major media organizations were there and they all did stories. The Canadians who worked so hard to make this event a success, did a great job.

The keynote speaker at the Conference was Prof. John Stone of the North Carolina State University, author of noteworthy research into taxi driver safety. In his remarks, he observed that taxis are an indispensable element of the transportation system of the Montreal Urban Community, and noted:

"... taxi drivers are at risk. They are the targets for robbery, assault and murder. In the United States they are the highest risk profession sustaining nearly 40 times the average homicide rate for all professions. Driving a taxi is also a high risk profession in Canada, Australia, England, and other countries."

Professor Stone commended the Montreal Taxi Bureau for its approach to dealing with the problem which follows very closely a model he proposes:

"As a first step, a client group for collective inquiry should be formed. Second, the client group identifies the problem in terms of its nature, magnitude, and risk factors. Furthermore, the group identifies the institutional, technical and financial constraints on the problem. Third, the group explicitly defines its long term and short term solution objectives. Fourth, potential solutions need to be identified. Fifth, the group evaluates and compares the potential solutions with respect to the objectives and constraints. Lastly, the group chooses its preferred solution and recommends a plan for implementation. This approach is being followed by the Taxi Bureau. It is a model for other cities."

Professor Stone noted also that between 1990 and 1995 as a result of Round Table efforts, the number of taxi robberies fell dramatically by 60% from 187 annual armed robberies to 76. Furthermore, relations between taxi drivers, the police, and the community improved. This conference, sponsored by the Security Committee, is another step in the systematic, collaborative effort to find a solution to the taxi driver safety problem.

Prof. Stone concluded by offering a caution:

"... and finally, a word of caution. We should all think about who is ultimately responsible for the safety of a taxi driver. Is it the driver? The company or taxi owner? Or a regulatory agency? Should the taxi industry take care of its own? Or should a regulatory agency adopt a "parental" approach to the welfare of taxi drivers. If a regulatory agency mandates safety equipment, it accepts some responsibility, and companion liability if a safety device fails to protect a driver. And unfortunately no safety device or method guarantees full protection."

It should also be noted that all participants in the decision making process - the regulators, city councils, taxicab companies, industry representatives, all face a potential for substantial liability if they should fail to take appropriate action to protect the industry's drivers. This is a widespread problem that absolutely must be resolved. The collaborative approach taken in Montreal is excellent and other communities would be well advised to emulate them.

Published in Taxi Magazine, January 1997


More News on Safety Issues

by Terry Smythe

On Monday, July 8, I996 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released it's Current Intelligence Bulletin #57 - Violence in the Workplace: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies.

The August issue of Taxi Magazine presented some alarming data from the report; driving a cab has always been a high risk occupation and now it is getting even worse!

It is also interesting to note in the report that:

Workplace homicides differ substantially from those portrayed by the media and from homicides in the general population. For the most part, workplace homicides are not the result of disgruntled workers who take out frustrations on co-workers or supervisors, or of intimate partners and other relatives who kill loved ones in the course of a dispute; rather, they are mostly robbery-related crimes.

On the issue of non-fatal assaults, the report once again confirms the great difficulty in acquiring accurate data. The data it does have is based only on "reported" assaults. It is no secret that a huge amount of the mayhem inflicted on taxi drivers does not get reported simply because the reporting procedure is time consuming, and the victim is not compensated for that time.

On risk factors and prevention strategies, the report tends to focus much of its attention on co-worker violence, with little offered relative to driving a taxicab. It is encouraging to note their observations relative to the known presence of cash in a taxicab:

"Commonly implemented cash-handling policies in retail settings include procedures such as using locked drop safes, carrying small amounts of cash, and posting signs and printing notices that limited cash is available. It may also be useful to explore the feasibility of cashless transactions in taxicabs and retail settings through the use of machines that accommodate automatic teller account cards or debit card. These approaches could be used in any setting where cash is currently exchanged between workers and customers.

On the issue of safety shields, the report does make reference to them, but only within the context of fixed locations such as gas stations, convenience stores, etc. However, it also endorses some leading edge technology measures:

"Numerous security devices may reduce the risk for assaults against workers and facilitate the identification and apprehension of perpetrators. These include close-circuit cameras, alarms, two-way mirrors, card-key access systems, panic-bar doors locked from the outside only, and trouble lights or geographic locating devices for taxicabs and other mobile workplaces."

I was both encouraged and disappointed with the report's treatment of training. NIOSH does recognize the importance of training, but touches on it so lightly as to imply it to be more of a modest consideration.

The report makes no mention at all of the impact of improved taxi driver safety on insurance coverage, and ever increasing law suits on failure to provide a safe work place.

Published in Taxi Magazine, September 1996


Quality of Data

The single most significant weakness in our effort to improve taxi driver safety is the quality of the data we collect to support our wishes.

It's a viscious Catch-22 circle where the politicians are reluctant to take action - "Well, just how bad is it?", but at the same time, the critical budgets needed to gather quality data are constantly being whittled down to such levels that the plight of taxi drivers gets lost in the wake of the high profile air traffic controllers et al.

From an InterNet discussion 24 August 1996


Canada's Most Deadly Occupations

The news item from yesterday's Toronto Globe & Mail (Canada's Deadly Occupations) is based on research conducted by Statstics Canada, published in the summer edition of their Perspectives on Labour and Income. If one were to believe the story, a conclusion could be drawn that driving a taxicab in Canada is not among the country's most deadly occupations.

Unfortunately, close reading reveals the following:

"... but the Canadian data are mainly drawn from provincial workers' compensation boards, ..."

An unknown number of Canadian taxi drivers, widely believed to be a huge majority, are considered to be independent contractors, and thus do not enjoy workers' comp, and consequently do not show up on the very data base that is the fundamental source of the data upon which Statistics Canada make its national pronouncements. It would appear that once again the occupation of driving a taxicab may have been overlooked by those who guide our country.

It was both interesting and ominous to note the observation about a "stunning" death rate in the U.S.

From an InterNet discussion 20 August 1996


Just How Bad Is It?

Official body counts emerge out of databases that originate in Workers' Comp, Unemployment Insurance, Health Insurance, Pension Plans, Disability Insurance, et al. Unfortunately, a huge majority of drivers are perceived to be independent contractors, who do not enjoy such benefits from these sources. As a consequence, the mayhem inflicted on such folks, no matter what their occupation, just does not surface in these official statistics.

Where they do sometimes show up is in newspaper stories. A very poor and primitive alternate statistical source, but if its all you've got, then its better than nothing. Unfortunately, even it is drying up as the media folks become hardened to the mayhem. The 12 out of 43 is a good indicator.

Then comes the Catch-22 aggravation. Far too many government agencies are unable, perhaps even unwilling, to take decisive action because of the absence of hard data. All too often, we hear the appeal, "Tell us just how bad is the situation out there, prove it!" But then when the fragile numbers start coming in, many from even more fragile media reports, the validity of the stats are held up to challenge by economists and statisticians accustomed to working with "statisticaly valid" data.

The bad news keeps getting worse. Three years ago, when I first got on the 'Net, many newspapers worldwide published their full text stories on the InterNet, and it was relatively easy to daily interrogate a wide array of world wide newspapers, and put up full text relevant stories. In the last 6 months, newspaper after newspaper is shutting down their 'Net services. At best, a few put up teasers of partial stories; "but if you want full text, please give us your VISA #."

It's getting harder and harder to get at the information, data and statistics associated with the unrelenting, accelerating mayhem. That is why the NIOSH data has become so important. There is a rumour going around that NIOSH is to be privatized, and if that happens, I'm fearful for the survival of costly data collection they do, out of which emerges the only reliable data we have to date.

From an InterNet discussion 14 August 1996


EFT POS Technology

This resistance to leading edge technology to facilitate migration to the ultimate, elusive cashless taxi appears to be widespread. Why is that? There is a growing perception that the resistance to the cashless taxi has little to with technology itself, but rather perpetuation of a historic affection for cash. Leading edge technology by its very nature leaves behind an audit trail. Can this be the source of the resistance?

As has been shown by countless studies and reports, the vast majority of assaults, murders, etc., are robbery motivated. The lure is cash. Common sense sez that if you remove the lure, the assaults and murders will shrink to the point of near evaporation. That being the case, one would think that drivers everywhere would embrace EFT POS technology with enthusiasm.

So why the resistance?

From an InterNet discussion 7 August 1996


Ominous Trend?

Back in antiquity, regulatory authorities issued taxicab business licences to traditionally organized corporate companies that owned the vehicles, provided dispatch services, measured the demand, marketed their service, employed drivers, trained drivers, and properly held the licences in their own names as in fact, they had due care and control over the vehicle and driver when in use providing a transportation service for people as a public utility.

Evolution has carried us through major changes in the tax laws in the early 70's out of which was born the independent contractor and what we now know as leasing. Regulatory authorities, by historic inattention, continue to this day to issue these licences to the same licence holders as in antiquity, but today these licence holders no longer have care and control. Their leasing contracts go to extraordinary lengths to ensure with absolute legal clarity that in fact they do not have care and control.

How do regulatory authorities rationalize this situation where he who really does have care and control of the vehicle does not have a licence to do so, but he who does hold the licence does not have care and control?

The recent Toronto Metropolitan Licensing Commission Leasing Report, and the Peer Review of the Seattle Taxicab Industry, both focused some attention on this disturbing situation in what appears to be a belated effort to come to grips with the evolutionary growth of the industry into extreme atomization. Unfortunately, it appears to be driven by agitated reaction rather than pro-active action.

The ominous trend I'm perceiving is that by a mix of circumstances, drivers are being ever more constrained by lease contracts containing ever more oppressive provisions reinforcing the legal clarity of the "no control" syndrome. Driven by fear of the tax laws and their conflicting oppressive requirements, these contracts continue to contain ever more clauses making it ever more difficult for drivers to be equipped with a safe workplace, and ever more difficult for surviving beneficiaries to file legal action for failure to provide a safe workplace.

An evolutionary development starting to appear in recent times are clauses affectionately known as "Hold Harmless" and "Acknowledgement of Risk". Inclusion of these clauses within these ever tighter lease contracts are now placing a driver and his beneficiaries in an ever more precarious situation. If he wants to drive at all, his only contractual choices now impose these new clauses, further adding to his exposure emerging out of injury or death.

I understand these new clauses reinforcing the position of the licence holder (lessor) where the driver is effectively signing away whatever residual rights he may have, whereby he acknowledges in writing that driving a taxi carries with it high risks, and in so doing waives any rights he or his surviving beneficiaries may have to claim property, injury or death claims.

By requiring a driver to sign away such rights, I'm wondering about the fundamental legality of inclusion of such clauses. Is this a matter for belated regulatory concern? To what extent should workplace safety and health authorities be concerned? Have any other regulatory or workplace safety authorities, other than Toronto and Seattle, attempted to resolve this difficult situation anywhere in the world, such that a solution equitable for both drivers and licence holders emerges?

Curiously, the flip side of such clauses places the lessor in the position of acknowledging to the world that indeed, driving a taxicab is a high risk occupation. Surprise! Surprise!

From an InterNet discussion 3 August 1996


Safety Shields

by Terry Smythe

I am not an opponent of safety shields, but neithcr am I an enthusiastic supporter. I do believe they offer some protection, along with protection offered by many other devices, systems and techniques.

I believe safety shields offer the best protection when they are an integrated design element within a vehicle specifically designed for the purpose. The best contemporary vehicles are those patterned after the venerable London Taxi.

They are wheelchair accessible, roomy, and the safety shield being integrated into the driver seat/compartment, is not at all intrusive into passenger comfort. The safety shield in such a vehicle is not advertised as such, but rather as a privacy shield.

A safety shield as an add-on in a standard 4 door family sedan does provide protection. Of that, there is no dispute, It is also very intrusive into passenger comfort, generating a widespread perception it is bad for business. The truth is that many millions of rides are trouble free, compared to the few that are not.

A most critical issue we must all face is that conventional 4-door family sedans, the current taxicab of choice, are ever shrinking in size. It is absolutely inevitable that the finite supply of such vehicles large enough to accept a shield, will evaporate. It is already happening, as evidenced by the ever increasing number of older Lincolns and Cadillacs pressed into service as taxicabs.

When the Checker Cab Co. went out of busmess, the taxicab industry in North America was deprived of a vehicle specificallv designed for the purpose. Ever since then, as the supply of Checkers dwindled, the standard 4-door family sedan has been pressed into service as a substitute. Now even they are dwindling. Inevitably, the supply of big Cadillacs and Lincolns will similarly dwindle, then what......?

Published in Taxi Magazine, July 1996


Safety Shields

The traditional 4 door family sedan is simply not well suited to the installation of a safety shield. As most taxicabs may be driven by more than 1 person, the maximum height of the driver cannot ordinarily be predicted. Therefore the shield must be installed behind the front seat after it has been moved back as far as possible. While this facilitates reasonable comfort for the driver, the passenger only gets whatever space is left over.

In the auto manufacturing world, the trend is to ever shrinking 4 door sedans. As a consequence, there is a finite supply of 4 door family sedans large enough to facilitate installation of some kind of shield in some manner. It is absolutely inevitable that the supply of these vehicles will diminish.

I do not disagree with the principle of a shield. In fact, I champion such shields when designed and constructed as part of a purpose built taxicab. The concept of the London Cab is very well suited to this requirement.

The shield had its origin way back in antiquity, conceived and born, I believe, out of a perception that passengers would appreciate privacy. Perhaps our historians in the group could verify this.

The old Checker Cab had at one time a shield built right into the car as part of the overall design, still leaving a huge roomy area for passengers, including provision for 2 on little jump seats. Most stretch limousines have a shield built right into the vehicle design.

I believe that the supply of large 4 door sedans will ultimate shrink, more or less simultaneous with an ever increasing risk to the driver, such that purpose built taxicabs are the inevitable solution.

The critical ingredients are a mix of ever increasing demand for accessible transportation and an ever increasing risk of ever more deadly mayhem inflicted on drivers. Both will inescapably propel the migration into purpose built taxicabs.

All will be designed and built with integral shields that both protect the driver, provide passenger privacy, and will not intrude into passenger comfort. All will be wheelchair accessible, providing universal transportation services to a substantially increased customer base.

I mention the London Cab only as a conceptual design. There is no reason why contemporary wheelchair vans cannot be modified into purpose built taxicabs. Either way, the migratory process is inexorable. And it will be costly.

Visionaries among us must pool their collective persuasive talents from within both the industry and regulators to cooperatively do whatever needs to be done to make it happen. Reasons to do it will triumph.

I concede this may not happen in my time, but I sincerely believe it will happen eventually. Of that I am confident.

From an InterNet discussion 10 July 1996


BAD NEWS CONTINUES TO GET WORSE!

by Terry Smythe

Monday. 8 July 1996 was "CONFIRMATION DAY", not a day for celebration and rejoicing, but one of ominous reflection on just how dangerous the occupation of driving a taxicab has become. For it was on this day that the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released it's Current Intelligence Bulletin #57 - VIOLENCE IN THE WORKPLACE: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies.

In October 1993, NIOSH reported that 15 people were murdered in the workplace every week and that the workplace with the highest homicide rate (26.9/100,000 workers) was taxicab establishments, and the occupation with the highest homicide rate (15.1/100,000 workers) was driving a taxicab.

We've always known that driving a taxicab is a high risk occupation, but just how risky has been difficult to nail down with any acceptable degree of statistical reliability. Accurate data collection relative to assaults on taxi drivers continues to be an elusive goal. However, on Monday. 8 July 1996, NIOSH confirmed what we all believe - It's Getting Worse!.

In less than 3 years since last reporting, NIOSH now states that:

Taxicab services had the highest rate of work-related homicide during the 3-year period 199092 (41.4/100,000). This rate was nearly 60 times the national average rate of work-related homicides (0.70/100,000).

and that:

When detailed occupations were analyzed for 199092 (Table 9), the highest homicide rates were found for taxicab drivers/chauffeurs (22.7) Homicide rates for taxicab drivers and security guards were one and a half times higher during the early 1990s than they had been during 198389.

Comparison of the 1993 data against current data indicates that on both counts, the rate of homicide has suffered an amazing, unacceptable 65% increase!

NIOSH is not established to focus its attention solely on the taxicab industry. The purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Public Law 91596) is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for every working person and to preserve our human resources. This means that NIOSH must focus its attention on the nation-wide workplace. As a consequence, their report embraces a large array of considerations, not the least of which is co-worker violence. That driving a taxicab emerges as the most dangerous occupation of all is really quite remarkable.

NIOSH data indicate that homicide has become the second leading cause of occupational injury death, exceeded only by motor-vehicle-related deaths. Although no definitive strategy will ever be appropriate for all workplaces, NIOSH advocates a change in the way work is done in certain settings to minimize or remove the risk of workplace violence, and shift the emphasis from reactionary approaches to prevention, and by embracing workplace violence as an occupational safety and health issue.

As the report embraces the global workplace, it is understandable that measures to enhance taxi driver safety receive modest attention. But the report does suggest that

"...great potential exists for workplace-specific prevention efforts such as bullet-resistant barriers and enclosures in taxicabs, convenience stores, gas stations, emergency departments, and other areas where workers come in direct contact with the public; locked drop safes and other cash-handling procedures..."

The report goes on to say :

Long-term efforts to reduce the level of violence in U.S. society must address a variety of social issues such as education, poverty, and environmental justice. However, short-term efforts must address the pervasive nature of violence in our society and the need to protect workers. We cannot wait to address workplace violence as a social issue alone but must take immediate action to address it as a serious occupational safety issue.

It is also interesting to note in the report that:

The circumstances of workplace homicides differ substantially from those portrayed by the media and from homicides in the general population. For the most part, workplace homicides are not the result of disgruntled workers who take out their frustrations on co-workers or supervisors, or of intimate partners and other relatives who kill loved ones in the course of a dispute; rather, they are mostly robbery-related crimes.

On the issue of non-fatal assaults, the report once again confirms the great difficulty in acquiring accurate data. The data is does have is based only on "reported" assaults. It is no secret that a huge amount of the mayhem inflicted on taxi drivers does not get reported simply because the reporting procedure is time consuming, and the victim is not compensated for that time.

On risk factors and prevention strategies, the report tends to focus much of its attention on co-worker violence, with little offered relative to driving a taxicab. It is encouraging to note their observations relative to the known presence of cash in a taxicab:

Commonly implemented cash-handling policies in retail settings include procedures such as using locked drop safes, carrying small amounts of cash, and posting signs and printing notices that limited cash is available. It may also be useful to explore the feasibility of cashless transactions in taxicabs and retail settings through the use of machines that accommodate automatic teller account cards or debit cards. These approaches could be used in any setting where cash is currently exchanged between workers and customers.

On the issue of safety shields, the report does make reference to them, but only within the context of fixed locations such as gas stations, convenience stores, etc. However, it also endorses some leading edge technology measures:

Numerous security devices may reduce the risk for assaults against workers and facilitate the identification and apprehension of perpetrators. These include closed-circuit cameras, alarms, two-way mirrors, card-key access systems, panic-bar doors locked from the outside only, and trouble lights or geographic locating devices in taxicabs and other mobile workplaces.

I was both encouraged and disappointed with the report's treatment of training. NIOSH does recognize the importance of training, but touches on it so lightly as to imply it to be more of a modest consideration:

Training should not be regarded as the sole prevention strategy but as a component in a comprehensive approach to reducing workplace violence. To increase vigilance and compliance with stated violence prevention policies, training should emphasize the appropriate use and maintenance of protective equipment, adherence to administrative controls, and increased knowledge and awareness of the risk of workplace violence.

The report makes no mention at all of the impact of improved taxi driver safety on insurance coverage, and ever increasing law suits on failure to provide a safe work place. This is a curious lapse, but perhaps outside the scope of what NIOSH is able to do. The report concludes by recognizing the need for better data collection relative to:

What are the specific tasks and environments that place workers at greatest risk?
What factors influence the lethality of violent incidents?
What are the relationships of workplace assault victims to offenders?
Are there identifiable precipitating events?
Were there any safety measures in place?
What were the actions of the victim and did they influence the outcome of the attack?
What are the most effective prevention strategies?

These questions should also be addressed in developing violence prevention strategies for specific workplaces.

While the report, in embracing the global workplace, tends not to single out the taxicab industry, on balance I am encouraged that the NIOSH folks have determined to dedicate substantial scarce resources to this extremely important issue. They have confirmed our widespread perception that driving a taxicab is indeed the most hazardous occupation of all. They are to be commended. This report should be widely disseminated throughout both the taxicab industry and regulatory authorities.


Bad News Only Gets Worse

by Terry Smythe

We've always known that obtaining hard data on just how risky driving a taxicab may be, is extremely difficult because taxi drivers, for the most part, are treated as independent contractors and thus do not turn up on any official databases relative to homicides and assaults, However, at long last that is changing.

In October I993, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health released hard statistics clearly proving that the homicide rate of 15.1/100,000 was nearly double that of the nearest runner-up - law enforcement officers. It is significant to note that the NIOSH data was only for the period 1980-1989. It was already 5 years out of date! A cursory scan of media and crime reports clearly indicates the situation is much more desperate in more recent years.

In January 1992, the Southeastern Transportation Center funded a project, Assaults Against Taxi Drivers and Protection Strategies. The project embraced the period 199I-1992 and was completed in January 1995 by the North Carolina State University, in cooperation with the International Taxicab and Livery Association. Based on the taxi driver assaults and homicides that are reported, the researchers updated the 1989 data and determined that this occupation has indeed become even more dangerous. As at the end of I992, the homicide rate has risen from 15.1 to 37.5 per 10,000 drivers, an ominous, frightening trend.

While the 198I-1989 NIOSH data only dealt with homicides, this latest data has reached out and embraced assaults against taxi drivers. Based on reported assaults, the researchers determined that taxi drivers are assaulted at the rate of 3,866 per 100,000 drivers!

Charles Rathbone in San Francisco has just advised me of 2 new official reports released by the U.S. Department of Labor that shed new light on occupational homicides in the U.S. taxicab industry. They show that 86 cab drivers were murdered on the job in are:

Janice Windau and Gary Toscano, "Workplace Homicides in I992", published in "Compensation and Working Conditions," February I994, pp. 1-8. (Reprinted in U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Report 870, April 1994, "Fatal Workplace Injuries in I992: A Collection of Data Analysis")

Guy Toscano and William Weber, "Violence in the Workplace", U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1995.

According to data contained in these reports, the occupation of "taxi drivers and chauffeurs" had the highest risk of work-related homicide in I993. There were 97 homicides, with a rate of 43.1 per 100,000 employed. Windau and Toscano say: "Taxicab drivers and chauffeurs facc unusually high risks of becoming homicide victims. This occupation accounted for almost a tenth of all victims of job-related homicide, but less than one-half of 1 percent of the nation's workforce, Nocturnal trips, especially thosc to secluded areas, make these drivers particularly vulnerable. Almost half the cab drivers died from 9pm to 3am. The New York City metropolitan area accounted for almost half of all homicides involving taxicab drivers and chaufFeurs, whereas, the employment of these workers in this area is about 20 percent of the national employment for this occupation."

Windau and Toscano provide data on industries with high risks of work-related homicides in 1993. Again, taxis are at the top of the list. "Taxicab operations" had 96 homicides and a rate of 79 per 100,000. They further illustrate the importance of looking at dangerous activities from the perspective of both occupation and industry. For example, the risk of homicide for taxicab drivers and chauffeurs, although unusually high, still substantially understates the homicide risk for cab drivers by themselves. The "taxicab operation" industry estimates that risk at 79 per 100,000 workers, compared with 43 per 100,000 for taxicab drivers and chauffeurs. Unlike the taxicab industry, the latter occupation includes a substantial number of drivers on regular route, such as airport-to-airport transfers, activities for which the homicide risk is relatively low."

My sincere thanks to Charles for his reporting on these two new official reports. We have all known for a long time that driving a taxicab is the world's most risky occupation, but just how risky has been problematic in determination because of the lack of official data. As more and more of this hard official data emerges, our worst fears are ever more confirmed. Bad news seems to be getting worse. Fortunately, the presence of this new data will help immensely to encourage officialdom and industry leaders to become more aggressively interested in working closely to come up with bold, decisive action to make driving a taxi safer.

Published in Taxi Magazine, July 1995


Wanted: Taxi Driver Safety Advisory Groups

Bv Terry Smythe

When it comes to taxi driver safety, everybody has ideas. Taxi drivers have ideas on how their workplace should be protected. Taxi owners have ideas on how drivers might be protected. Dispatchers have ideas on how they can best help a taxi driver in peril. Regulatory authorities have their ideas on what can or should be done to protect drivers. Police officers have ideas on how taxi drivers should be protected and how rhey can protect themselves. Customcrs have ideas on how taxi drivers should bc protected. Some customers, fortunately few, have ideas on how they should be protected from errant taxi drivers.

Politicians have their own ideas on how taxi drivers should be protected. Associations representing owners, drivers and regulators have their ideas on how taxi drivers should be protected. Occupational safety and health officials know how badly taxi drivers need to be protected and likely have their own ideas on what should be done. And let's not forget media representatives who sometimes lose sight of their responsibility to objectively report the news and often manufacture news by inflicting their own interpretation of the situation and what they feel should be done.

Like others, I too have a perception of what will likcly not work and what needs to be done.

A critical ingredient in this maelstrom of ideas, opinions, perceptions, and aspirations is a healthy, positive communication in a cooperative environment. To quotc Al Lagasse (Exec. V.P., ITLA) at the 1992 IATR Confercncc in Montreal, "We must communicate and co-opcratc with one another to achieve success. It is impossible to communicatc with everyone all of the time. The concept of industry spokespersons needs to be developed."

In an industry heavily populatcd with independent contractors and independent owner-operators, there is a strong risk for the development of a situation where most everybody is a boss, yet nobody is in charge. Mr. Lagase's perception of industry spokespersons is right on the mark. Couple that with the implementation of a taxi drivcr safety advisory group for each city and the possibility of a reasonable measure of success begins to emerge.

Great care must be taken to ensurc that the group does not become too big. I would rccommcnd a core group of one driver representative, one taxi company representative, one regulatory representative, and one dispatch representative.

Secondary links with other representatives such as tourism, occupational safety and health, police, airport ground transportation, City Hall and the media will broaden understanding and solutions development.

A taxi driver safcty advisory group needs to have a mandate. Recently, a good one came to my attention from Terry O'Keefe, Director of thc Victorian Taxi Directorate, located in Victoria, Australia.

In addition to the usual necessary array of goals such as investigation of the nature and extent of violence, database of violence, determination of what others are doing, impact of leading edge technology, etc., the Australian group must be commended for embracing measures to improve the public image of taxi drivers and promote positive community attitudes which lessen the likelihood of assault and exploitation. Their plan devises a means to support individual drivers who have been the victims of violent attacks, thereby maximizing their chances of rehabilitation and return to work.

These are critically important issues that are often overlooked in the formation and activities of such advisory groups.

Long term survival of such advisory groups is largely Jependent upon the core group's ability to meet regularly, think positively, and never succumb to the perception that their work is done. The mayhem being inflicted on taxi drivers worldwide is awesome. The work of this group is never done, and it must never be allowed to become complacent, for violence inflicted on taxt drivers has never showed signs of shrinking. On the contrary, the life of a typical taxi driver is becoming ever more desperate.

Let us never forget that taxi drivers are the unsung heroes of urban transportation. This industry is an important part of the national transit system. The heart of this industry is its drivers, without whom there would be no industry. They, therefore, are our most precious asset and should be so recognized by appropriate care and attention, else they risk becoming an endangered species.

Published in Taxi Magazine, April 1995


Taxi Drivers in Peril!

In October I993, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health released hard statistics on something we have all known for years that driving a taxi is the most hazardous occupation of all.

Their data clearly proved that the homicide rate of 15.1/100,000 was nearly double that of the nearest runner up law enforcement officers. Their data further proved that the homicide rate of 26.9/100,000 inside a taxi is over 3 times greater than the nearest runner-up inside liquor stores.

It is significant to note that the NIOSH data is only for the period 1980-1989. It's already five years out of date! A cursory scan of media and crime reports clearly indicates that the situation has gotten much more desperate in recent years. It would not be unreasonable to expect the data to reveal a situation at least doubly more deadly, if current data could be quickly assembled and analyzed.

The mayhem being inflicted on our taxi drivers has reached awesome proportions. If drastic, decisive action is not taken soon, the violence will become ever more terrifying. It will not go away.

An ominous trend is beginning to emerge. In an effort to protect themselves, drivers are starting to arm themselves. None will publically admit to such action, but privately many confirm that guns have become common. The situation has become so desperate that Dade County (Miami, FL) in June I994, passed a new ordinance that will allow taxicab drivers in that county to legally carry firearms in their vehicle, ostensibly for their own protection.

The ripple effect is already emerging, News of this ordinance has quickly migrated across the continent and pressure is beginning to emerge in other jurisdictions for similar legislation. This is not good, for violence can only beget more violence. From primitive information gathering resources, it is known that at least two paying passengers have been killed in the past year, by their taxi drivers, resulting from humble fare disputes. There may be more. Certainly as the trend continues, there will be more.

The dominant lure leading to assaults and robberies of taxi drivers is the perceived presence of raw cash. The driver is seen as vulnerable, easy prey, an open cash register all largely true. Leading edge technology is here today to make it possible to migrate to the cashless taxi. It will not be easy, it will not be quick, but it must be done, and it must be done everywhere. It must be done so well and so thoroughly that the criminal element will universally know and recognize that taxi drivers everywhere are no longer a ready source of raw cash.

The dominant lure of ready cash must be removed for all time. A strong will at all levels is the critical ingredient. The awesome ever increasing mayhem being inflicted on taxi drivers must be seen as an opportunity to do something, not as a reason to do nothing.

Published in Taxi Magazine, February 1995


Who's In Charge?

by Terry Smythe

In recent weeks, as a consequence of information emerging off the worldwide InterNet, we have become aware of at least three more taxi drivers murdered, all as a consequence of a robbery. The lure is cash.

With each has come the normal flurry of media attention focusing on driver safety and safety shields, agitated reaction by industry and regulatory officials, meetings to discuss taxi driver safety, resolutions to find a solution, followed by profound silence.

Within the agitated reaction can be found significant pressure on local regulatory authorities to mandate safety shields, or GPS, or in-car video cameras, etc. Understandably, regulatory authorities are reluctant to cave in to such demands, for then the responsibility for protecting taxi drivers begins to shift from the industry onto the authorities. That responsibility arguably carries with it a measure of companion liability if these specific safety measures don't work, as drivers will continue to be assaulted and murdered, simply because the root of the problem - cash - continues to be the lure.

So long as the fundamental lure of raw cash continues to be present, the risks that drivers face will not diminish. It will continue to escalate as more and more of society at large continues with the inexorable migration to the ultimate cashless world. With this migratory process to a cashless society, sources of raw cash shrink, leaving those remaining in ever more dangerous exposure of robbery and assault. The well documented risks faced by taxi drivers can only get worse so long as this affection for cash payments continue.

Changes in the tax laws back in antiquity, out of which was born the ubiquitous independent contractor, has had the effect of atomizing the industry so highly that meaningful supervision and control has become an extremely difficult task. Regulatory authorities, who historically dealt with a handful of strong corporate business managers who recruited, trained, supervised, controlled and disciplined their drivers, are ever increasingly becoming the personnel department for the industry, a most inappropriate role reversal.

The primary responsibility for protecting taxi drivers rests with the industry. It has a duty and an obligation to protect its own. That fundamental duty cannot and must not ever be shunned. The single most decisive action that the industry can take to protect its drivers is to begin a serious, committed process of migrating to the cashless taxi.

The regulatory authority cannot and must not ever be held responsible for mandating specific safety measures that may or may not be effective, so long as the root lure - raw cash - remains in place for all to see and know about. If the industry is perceived to be failing to protect its drivers, the regulatory authority, in co-operation with workplace safety officials, can and must then mandate that the industry take positive steps to implement meaningful, effective safety measures.

How many more drivers must die or suffer lifetime disabilities because of a fundamental failure to deal with this situation? Technology is not a barrier. The technology needed to effectively impose this transition has been available for many years and is well proven.

So who's in charge?

Published in Taxi Magazine, February 1997


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