Friday, January 06, 2006

Taxis and Cell Phones

I took a cab home from the Glebe last night. According to Google Maps, the distance I travelled was 2.1 km and should have taken about 3 minutes. During this ride the driver answered two calls on his cell phone. I had actually been surprised when I got in his car that he wasn't already talking to someone on a headset phone. It used to be that when I took a ride in a taxi, I'd ask the driver, "have you had any famous people in your cab lately?" (#1 answer used to be: Paul Martin, several drivers reported he tipped poorly, others said he was fine.) Now, they are always talking on their phones. I used to interupt them and say, "I would prefer that you not talk on the phone while you drive." The only problem is it makes for a sullen driver afterwards. On one occasion, an airport taxi driver got angry. "Do they not let you make personal calls at your work?" I was self-employed at the time. "Not when I'm with a client." It didn't help. His driving got a bit scary and he practically threw my change at me when I told him he could keep it. I try to avoid taking taxis now. It looks like the City of Ottawa has no rule against taxi drivers talking on cell phones. In a memorandum to a City Council committee last August, the local taxi companies submitted:

Fines have to be established and documented for shadow dispatching, use of cell phones while driving, bandit operators, over-charging, refusing to take credit cards, refusing service or rude behaviour.
Apparently, in 2003, the City of Toronto prohibited "cab drivers from using cell phones while transporting passengers (except in an emergency)". [site] Are cell phones actually that dangerous? My own experience is that about half the drivers who have almost killed me in the past couple of years have been talking on handheld phones. I assume some of the others were on hands-free phones. woman on cellYou'll survive a missed phone call; you might not survive a collision! The federal government says they're dangerous, but they lack jurisdiction. It is true the Highway Traffic Act is provincial, but if the Federal government can put driving over 0.08% blood alcohol in the Criminal Code, I would think they could put driving while talking on a cell phone in there too.


Fingers said...

Scary it is.
Delhi's full of drivers who talk on handheld phones while driving.

On a lighter note, all those motorists who talk on their flapping mouthpieces look so funny till you notice the devices....

PhilG said...

There was a private member's bill in Ontario in the last session that aimed to severely restrict the use of cell phones by drivers; unfortunately it went nowhere. And I believe there is a ban on hand-held cell phones in Newfoundland. As a pedestrian I have had too many close calls with drivers who are too busy talking to notice that they've run a red light or a stop sign. And you just know no one will do anything until someone is killed.