New Rules Could Stop Cabbies From Using Cell Phones

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Do distracted drivers worry you? How about distracted cab drivers? The Minneapolis City Council is looking at new rules to keep drivers from using their cell phones. But the question is when? Even though they support the rules, some drivers are worried about the wording.

“It makes some passengers nervous,” said Yemane Mebrahtu of the Minneapolis Taxicab Drivers and Owners Association. “They don’t like you to use the phone, and also it can cause an accident; can get distracted.”

So, most local cab companies already ban cell phone use while driving passengers. The association readily agreed to a ban, but was surprised when a subcommittee passed wording that also seems to ban them when passengers aren’t onboard.

“We would like to have the taxi drivers to use limited (cell) phones because that’s the only time they can … be able to communicate with their family members when they don’t have passengers,” said Mebrahtu.

“I think we should ban cell phone use when a driver has a customer in the cab,” said City Councilmember Gary Schiff. “When they don’t have a customer in the cab, I don’t think we should be as concerned until the State of Minnesota acts uniformly against all drivers.”

The Taxicab Drivers and Owners Association hopes to get that wording changed before it comes up for a full council vote, which is a week from Friday. A separate proposal requiring cabs to take credit cards will take more time to pass. It was tabled until January.

“We’re going to take some more time to look at that,” said Schiff, who sponsored the proposal, “because I want to make sure that the cab driver isn’t bearing the brunt of the fees that banks are charging for credit cards.”

Any rules that pass a week from Friday would go into effect by the end of December.

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