It's an idea whose time has come. Remember a few years back, when your daily routine was interrupted by having to actually pay for your gas before filling up your vehicle's tank? Sure, it was a little annoying at first. Many of you probably still see it as a little annoying.
But the reasoning behind the decision for prepayment of gas in B.C. was sound.
It followed the death of young Grant Despatie, a gas station attendant who died after being dragged under a vehicle for more than seven kilometres - all after trying to collect $12.
His parents lobbied the government and it resulted in Grant's Law, which mandates that you must pay before you pump your gas, 24 hours a day.
This pay-first system has all but eliminated the gas-and-dash incidents that not only wasted police resources, but endangered lives as well.
It's time similar legislation was brought in to help B.C.'s taxi drivers.
One Port Alberni driver actually asked his city for help this week, citing increasing "fare ripoffs."
The situation is similar in Nanaimo and other Island communities.
One taxi company official says drivers have little recourse to pursue fare evaders. In addition to lost money, anything that consumes their time is also costly. The risk of confrontation with a fare evader can also lead to the possibility of damage to their cab, which can multiply the costs of fare evasion.
Several taxi companies in various B.C. cities have implemented policies where prepayment is mandatory for cab fares.
It should be mandatory everywhere.
Do we need a cab driver to be brutally attacked or killed before the situation is addressed? Even if some taxi drivers say they aren't worried about being attacked, it shouldn't even be an issue. Having police forced to worry about a string of petty thefts is also an utter waste of resources.
While taxi drivers throughout the province have the right to request a deposit before making a trip, some worry that customers might be offended by the request. There are also concerns that a deposit system does not apply the standard evenly across all customers and may still lead to fare evasion and confrontations between passengers and drivers.
Why not eliminate that risk altogether? At present, a Taxi Bill of Rights is in place to govern the Metro Vancouver region.
That statement of principles was created to ensure a high quality of service in an area where 50 per cent of the province's cabs operate.
The document - which does not apply to Vancouver Island or other regions in B.C. - allows a driver to request a deposit from a passenger. If the customer refuses to pay, the driver has the option to decline the trip.
A similar document that would apply to other parts of the province has been discussed, according to a spokeswoman with the Passenger Transportation Board.
It's time for a little less discussion and a lot more action. Bring a similar, or even more stringent, set of rules to Vancouver Island.
The concern, of course, from the cabbies would be that they provide a service and they don't want to rile up the customers.
But customers have a unique way of quickly adapting to new situations, especially a change that could save lives.
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