Sask. taxi group proposes safety alert device for Saskatoon cab drivers

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon looks at solutions for keeping taxi drivers safe on our streets' Saskatoon looks at solutions for keeping taxi drivers safe on our streets
WATCH ABOVE: There are competing ideas on how to improve safety for taxi drivers in Saskatoon. New technology seems to be the solution, but a group representing cab companies is at odds with the union representing more than 200 drivers – Aug 15, 2017

A personal emergency alert device, known as an ORA, may be the solution to safety concerns in Saskatoon, according to an official with the Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association (STCA).

The device is designed to look like a necklace and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, using cell phone service to send an emergency signal.

READ MORE: Saskatoon company launches ORA, a personal safety alert device

“It alerts our dispatch first. If there is no response, it is forwarded to 911,” said Shondra Boire, STCA spokesperson and operations manager at Comfort Cab.

A decision on whether to use the devices hasn’t been finalized, but Boire said the STCA is “looking at some of the options.”

Saskatoon taxi driver Malik Umar Draz presented to the city’s transportation committee Tuesday, asking councillors to consider making amber emergency alert lights mandatory on cabs.

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Drivers in distress would be able to discreetly press a button, making the light flash on the vehicle’s exterior.

Saskatoon taxis could have amber lights comparable to cabs in Toronto.

Amber emergency lights have been mandatory on all taxis in Toronto since 2000.

“That message is clear that driver is in danger and he does need help,” said Draz, who is also the president of United Steelworkers Local 2014.

The union represents more than 200 taxi drivers in the city.

All Saskatoon taxis are equipped with a panic button, but an emergency light or ORA device would provide a secondary option.

READ MORE: STCA calls for changes to allow more taxis in Saskatoon

Draz wants taxi companies to pay for flashing light installations.

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Boire said the STCA learned about Draz’s proposal through the media on Monday and has no plans to pay for amber lights.

The association would consider sharing the cost of ORA devices, Boire said.

Before considering any changes to the city’s bylaw, councillors need to know what the associated costs would be, according to Ward 10 Coun. Zach Jeffries.

“On this specific proposal it’s too early to say [yes or no],” Jeffries said.

Potential costs are expected to be included in a future report from city administration.

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