Database could be key to cabbie safety

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Dr Bevan Catley


Workplace safety researchers say taxi drivers need a central database holding records of all incidents, threats and attacks to help protect them on the job.

The database would enable profiling of passengers and pick-up locations and private addresses where there is an increased likelihood of danger.

The Healthy Work Group, which includes three researchers from the University's Department of Management as well as academics from other institutions, welcomed the review of safety standards in the taxi industry announced by Prime Minister John Key following the fatal stabbing of Auckland Co-op Taxis driver Hiren Mohini in Mt Eden on Sunday.

However, group member Dr Bevan Catley warns that one idea already being discussed – installing security cameras in all cabs – would not be enough on its own.

“Taxi driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world," Dr Catley says. “There needs to be a systematic approach to improving safety. People are quick to turn to technology, but a camera alone may not protect you. It might just mean they rob you, beat you, and then smash the camera thinking they can destroy the evidence.”

Dr Catley says if drivers report every incident of harassment or threat, verbal and physical, with details of those responsible and where and when it takes place, the information would quickly build into a significant database. "The key is to have a comprehensive knowledge base from which informed decisions can be made.

"Older drivers might know the specific places or types of situations in which to expect trouble and be on guard, either instinctively or through their knowledge or personal experience. Newer drivers are, quite naturally, less experienced and not as streetwise, but both groups could benefit immensely from such a database."

Taxi companies could then use this information to warn and prepare drivers, provide back up if needed and offer appropriate training, such as personal safety and how to diffuse angry situations.

A survey conducted last year by the group, which found one in three employers had cases of staff being assaulted in the workplace, identified transport workers as among the most at risk of attack.

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