Saskatoon cab companies say mandatory safety shields not the answer

The City of Saskatoon is looking into whether safety shields should be mandatory in taxis.

The review comes after taxi driver Malik Umar Draz told a council committee that he and some of his colleagues feel unsafe while on the job. He said safety shields in cabs would prevent assaults on taxi drivers, such as the one late last year that left a Regina driver in a medically induced coma.

“We’re not asking much. All we’re asking is safety on the job,” Umar Draz told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.

However, managers of the city’s two cab companies said they oppose a bylaw that would require them to install safety shields in their taxis. They told the committee that taxi drivers are self-employed and are welcome to install shields in their cars if they want.

If only some drivers put shields in their cars, it becomes problematic, Umar Draz said.

“If they’re not mandatory, then some drivers will have it and people can easily target those drivers — ‘Oh, that is the one that doesn’t feel safe,’ ” Umar Draz said.

Carlo Triolo, general manager of United Cabs, told reporters it would cost “several thousands of dollars” to install safety shields in his cabs and he’s not convinced they should be installed at all.

“There’s discussion that the shields provoke violence. There’s discussion that the shields take away from customer service. I mean, when you get in the back of a taxi that has shields in it, you feel like you’re in the back of a police car. What does that do for service?” he asked.

He also noted some cities, including Edmonton, have reversed bylaws that made safety shields mandatory.

“Are we going backwards or forwards with this?” he asked.

Triolo said drivers receive training on how to operate a cab safely and can always refuse to give a ride if they sense someone is “a wrong person” to get in their cab.

ahill@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/MsAndreaHill

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