Drivers everywhere know that when you get into an accident and you’re at fault, your insurance rates are going to go up. When you cause an accident, you have to pay for it one way or another. That may seem like a simple fact of life to some, but it hasn’t stopped a number of local cab drivers from striking over a policy that would see cab drivers at fault pay an insurance surcharge when they’re involved in a preventable accident.
The policy in question involves a surcharge of up to $6,200 over three years. A cab driver would have to pay when they’re involved in a collision that their employer deems preventable. But according to Edmonton Taxi Group Service President Phil Strong, the $6,200 maximum penalty would only be applicable when the driver has a severe accident. And the better a driver’s record is, the less they would have to pay. Yet cab drivers still feel they’re being treated unfairly.
Striking cab drivers think the surcharge is too much to pay on top of the insurance they already pay for renting a cab and that it unfairly singles out cab drivers. Yet they seem to be missing one simple idea: if you don’t want to pay the surcharge, don’t get into an accident.
Of course it’s not that black and white. Accidents do happen and a driver of any vehicle is not immune to the actions of other drivers or other circumstances beyond their control. But once again, the surcharge only applies to drivers at fault. And a lot of accidents are entirely preventable.
Spokesman for Teamsters Union Local 987 and supporter of the strike David Froelich has criticized the penalty, stating: “If a driver slides into a snow bank or backs into a concrete pillar, he’s subject to a $6,000 penalty.” But Froelich’s assertion is a major exaggeration of the situation. It’s completely unreasonable to claim that a driver would pay the maximum penalty if they were involved in a minor fender bender. This penalty isn’t designed to single out cab drivers over an accident; it’s meant to hold these drivers accountable and increase public safety. A cab driver might be more cautious when they’re driving if they know they’ll have to pay several thousand dollars for causing an accident.
Evidence shows the surcharge is doing more good than harm. Yellow Cab has claimed that accidents have decreased 60 per cent at the company since the policy was adopted. With numbers like that, it’s near impossible to argue the surcharge is detrimental. Striking cab drivers are trying to weasel out of responsibility for their actions.
A question that the striking cab drivers fail to answer is: why shouldn’t someone have to pay for their accident? Yes, the surcharge is levelled on top of the insurance premiums cab drivers already pay, but if they’re at fault in an accident and they are required to pay the maximum penalty, chances are the accident was severe enough to warrant the surcharge. Severe automobile accidents like that should not be a regular occurrence.
If nothing else, cab drivers need to be held to a higher standard when they’re on the clock. Their job is to drive members of the public around to wherever they need to go. It’s not at all unreasonable for cab companies to try and do the most they can for the safety of their clients. If a steep fine is the incentive that cab drivers need to drive safely, then it shouldn’t even be a matter of negotiation. The safety of the passengers needs to be first and foremost at a cab company.
Fortunately for customers, cab service in Edmonton has not been drastically affected by the strikes. And recently Edmonton Taxi Service Group has begun locking out drivers that they see on the picket lines. It may seem harsh to some, but if that’s what is needed to get the message across to these drivers, then that’s what needs to be done. This strike is a way for cab drivers to try to negotiate their way out of responsibility for their driving practices. No one should feel sorry for them.
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