Taxi group offers passenger safety tips as sex assault case reverberates

Taxi group offers passenger safety tips as sex assault case reverberates

In light of Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi's acquittal this week in a high-profile sexual assault case, the head of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association says there are many ways passengers can keep themselves safe.

Al-Rawi's case and Judge Gregory Lenehan's controversial comments on sexual consent have rocked the local taxi industry, association president Dave Buffett said Friday.

"It's horrible. It's hurt us emotionally and business-wise because it's such a blow to our industry and to our reputations as fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, boyfriends," Buffett said.

Note taxi's roof light

Before entering a cab, Buffett urges passengers to make note of the car's roof light and company name, in case something goes wrong. He said it's also a good idea to greet the cab driver by referring to their roof light number. 

"For example, 'How are you today 456' or 'How are you this evening 456,'" Buffet said.

"The driver is then aware you're aware of his roof light number. So say if he was to say something inappropriate or try to take a longer route, he's much more likely to be reported."

Sit away from driver

Kevin Hindle, who is in charge of licensing taxis for Halifax Regional Municipality, advises passengers to sit in the back seat on the right hand side, the furthest away from the driver.

"It is the door that's closest to the curb should you need to require to exit quickly," Hindle said.

In the first half of 2016, there were five reported complaints of sexual assault by taxi drivers in the Halifax area. Still, Kindle said, people should not be afraid to take taxis in Halifax.

"If you take a look at the number of trips that are done on a monthly basis and a yearly basis in Halifax without incident and the industry itself is one that polices themselves very good, if there's something going on out there we normally hear first and foremost from other drivers that witnessed something rather than waiting on passengers."

Call, don't hail

Buffett said Halifax taxi drivers answer about four million calls a year.

Both Buffett and Hindle advise passengers to call for a taxi instead of hailing one down on the street because the call records the person's request, the pickup area and which driver has been dispatched.