Cab drivers looking for improved safety measures

October 7, 2009 Wednesday, cabbies and their supporters asked the City Council for a few simple things to be done to begin to change that reality. With memories of the 2005 slashing death of cabbie Haroon Paryani on their minds, cab drivers and their allies trumpeted a new UIC study that lays out just how dangerous the taxi business has become.

The report contends:

  • 60 percent of cabbies have experienced some form of violence ranging from hostile or racial comments to threats of physical attack
  • 22 percent or more than one in five have experienced physical attack
  • and 8 percent experienced racial harassment at least two dozen times -- sometimes in the commission of a crime, sometimes not.

"This is an extraordinarily high level of danger on a job site, particularly for a modern American city," said Dr. Robert Bruno, UIC Labor and Employment Relations School.

The activists want placards in cabs saying assaulting drivers is a felony. They also want drivers to be allowed to park their vehicles from 2 - 7 a.m. on commercial streets -- so they don't have to walk long distances from industrial areas as Chicago regulations now require in all but the 46th Ward.

"We need to do what we can to protect these working people. They are barely making a living as it is. Driving a cab is not a lucrative business," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49th District.

The report's findings, that drivers are especially vulnerable to taunts about their heritage and religion, was particularly worrisome to those out plying the trade.

"There is nothing I can do to prevent anything from happening -- most of our customers are sitting in the back and they got the upper hand to do anything what they want to do," said Girmachew Dori, cab driver.

Islam Saleh has a pharmacy degree from India. But he is prepared to take the risk of being behind the wheel.

"I don't have any option, you study, you are very flexible with the job, you can work in the weekend especially, so you can make good money within a short span of time, and there are risks everywhere," said Saleh.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says cab and livery drivers are 60 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers.

That's sobering. But it isn't the most dangerous job. The top three are fishing workers, loggers, and pilots and flight engineers.

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