Link cabs’ GPS to improve safety

By Editorial Board

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended the city link GPS devices in all Chicago cabs to a single system. All taxis have been required to install GPS for directional purposes since 2007, but this technology would allow the city to track and record the locations of cabs at all times.

Cab drivers in Philadelphia and New York City argued similar systems invaded privacy, but systems in both cities remained. The inspector general wrote in his report the measure is as much for the safety of drivers as it is for passengers.

Knowning cabs’ locations could aid in the city’s response time, helping prevent situations like one that occurred this past August, when a cab driver in New York City was stabbed by a passenger after the passenger claimed the driver was Muslim.

It will also protect the safety of Chicago residents. The inspector general’s report cited 56 hit-and-run accidents by cabbies last year of pedestrians and cyclists in Chicago. There were 78 hit-and-runs of pedestrians and cyclists in 2008. The city needs to take a proactive step in both the training of drivers and the way these incidents are resolved.

This system could also have aided in finding the driver at fault in the case of Dan Firkins,  a student at the University of Chicago, who was dragged by an unknown cab and died from the injuries in May.

Although cab services are private entities, the city has the power to regulate them because they are a form of public transportation, according to Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Director of Public Information Efra Stein.

Linking the GPS systems in all cabs is an ideal solution. Cab drivers may drive more cautiously knowing the system is in place. It’s also a solution that doesn’t require police to be aggressive or waste manpower. The system would likely cost less than $2 million to implement.

Tracking the movements of each cab could also help city officials study traffic patterns and roadway systems. The city is currently testing real-time data collection received from Chicago Transit Authority buses. Linking the systems could provide this same type of information from taxis.

Ultimately, if the cab drivers are driving safely already, they shouldn’t fear a system that could end up benefiting them.