Sexual assault charges lead to calls for more female taxi drivers in Halifax

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WATCH: As a high profile retrial of a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger gets underway, two other taxi drivers are facing charges for sexual assault. The news is prompting some to raise concerns over passenger safety, and has renewed calls for more female drivers. Alicia Draus reports. – Jan 11, 2019

Recent news of Halifax taxi drivers facing sexual assault charges has led to calls for more female drivers in the municipality.

This past weekend, a 36-year old taxi driver was charged with sexual assault in relation to an incident in Halifax. Later in the week, police released news of another taxi driver, 74-year-old Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani Bozor, who was charged with sexual assault back in September 2018.

Both stories came out as former taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi went back to court for his sexual assault re-trial. Al-Rawi is accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger in 2015.

READ MORE: Complainant faces cross examination at Halifax taxi driver’s assault trial

The stories have raised concerns over passenger safety in vehicles. Many women say they do think about their safety before getting into a cab.

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“When your judgment’s impaired, it’s a little risky to get into a cab by yourself,” said Kayla Henn, who says she tries to avoid putting herself in that situation and opts to call a friend instead.

Hannah Coombs says she will occasionally take a cab, but only with friends.

“Just the fact that there would be nobody but me and the driver, there are sexual assault concerns,” she said, adding that she would prefer to have a female driver.

“Just because I’d feel more safe, but I feel like most cab drivers are male.”

Owner of Lady Drive Her, Chriss McDow, says in the past week she’s received an influx of calls from people wanting a female taxi driver.

“As soon as it hits the news, my phone rings,” she said. “People calling for a ride to the doctor or to take their children to school.”

But her all-female driver business currently only offers rides to and from the airport. The municipality limits the number of roof light licenses within HRM to 1,000. As of May 2018, there were 1,463 drivers operating the 1,000 roof lights. Of that, only 41 drivers were female.

READ MORE: Halifax business owner pushing for more female taxi drivers in the city

“We need to get the numbers up a little bit, so when the public asks for a female driver there will be more of us around,” she said.

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Earlier this year, McDow submitted a petition to regional council requesting they open more spots for female drivers but has not heard of any movement on that.

The municipality is currently reviewing the taxi industry, including passenger safety. The review is set to be made public in February.

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