Q&A - Handicap Equipment Security in Taxi

Question: Q&A ImageI often travel in a taxi with my mother, who is in a wheelchair, and the safety straps let go twice. What should I do about this?

The first time Mom's chair let go she crashed into the back of the cab. (He had her positioned up tight to the back seat) The next time she crashed up to the front and this is where she got hurt when her shins hit the back seat. (This time he had her strapped into the back of the cab, against the back door.)

Either way this is negligence on the part of the driver. I am under the impression that the driver is responsible to make sure that his vehicle is safe for public transport.

I contacted ICBC and it was suggested that I contact the cab company. Before doing this I want to make sure that someone will make sure that the cab company has done a follow up on this. Someone is going to get seriously hurt if this is not dealt with.

If you can let me know where I should go next with this I would appreciate it. I have contacted the care facility, where my Mom lives, to let them know what happened and to watch to make sure Mom doesn't suffer any further complications as a result of this.

image of taxi for handicapped people

Taxi Company Owner

The first stop would be the owner of the taxi company. We often don't expect much to come of this but you could be surprised.

When you do approach them, state the problem and tell them (within reason) what you expect as an outcome. That might range from insurance details for making an injury claim to refund of that fare to simply the assurance that the driver will receive instruction on the use of the security equipment and an apology.

Commercial Vehicle Safety & Enforcement

If the outcome is not satisfactory, then you do have the option of reporting the incident to either the police or the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) people. My personal preference would be CVSE and you can choose the appropriate Area Vehicle Inspector  to call based on where this happened.

The Vancouver Police Department does have a Taxi Team for incidents that occur within the City of Vancouver.

Educate Yourself

Perhaps the best thing that you can do is learn how these security devices work and how they are properly secured. There is no doubt that the driver will refuse for liability reasons to allow you to fasten the devices, but there is nothing to stop you from observing and making sure that the driver does the right thing. If they don't, discuss it and if you are not satisfied, call another cab or company.

Almost any manual seems to be available on the internet these days. Check with the company that you use most often and find out what system they use. See if you can find the manual for it on line, and if not, contact the company that makes them and ask. The worst that could happen is that they won't provide the manual or will only do so at cost.

Community Resources

I have also found the following document: Wheelchair Accessible Transportation by Taxi and Inter-city Bus in British Columbia from the Passenger Transportation Board. It appears that the Board is struggling through how to deal with this issue as well.

I visited the Richmond Center for Disability web site and found two interesting documents: Disability Awareness & Sensitivity Training and the Metro Vancouver Taxi Bill of Rights. If you have an organization like this near you, you may be able to work with them to improve the situation.

I also thought about the provincial licencing authority, the Passenger Transportation Branch and the Passenger Transportation Board, but they don't appear to be interested in complaints about taxi operation. If they are, I could not find any mention of it on their web sites.

Case Law

The case of Stillwell v Richmond Cabs Ltd. involves a taxi that made a sudden stop that ejected the passenger from her wheelchair. Justice Marzari found that the taxi drivers must ensure that a wheelchair passenger is effectively and properly secured. 

Share This Article

Here's some problems with your advice. although good, it's not useful for a Surrey taxi.

The VPD taxi unit does not operate outside of Vancouver as far as I know. More than likely they will not have jurisdiciton in Surrey. The city on vancouver does vehicle inspections every 6 months, Surrey is not within this jurisdiction and therefore, do not get these rigorous tests. The city of Surrey also allows a flip up rear seat to allow more rear passengers in the handicapped vans, this is not allowed in Vancouver for safety reasons. Apparently you can get away with a lot in Surrey.... Contacting the company itself more than likely will not get you the justice you and your mother deserve. Most taxi's are owner operated and only use the company name on the outside for a DBA, this is also common in tow trucks.

I would first and foremost contact the CVSE, taxis are very scared of inspections from them as they have the upmost authority and can impound a non safe commercial vehicle at the drop of a hat. A few years ago they setup a "sting" operation and took quite a few unroad worthy Vancouver based taxi's off the road and they were unable to use them for months, costing the owners some serious money. 99% of wheelchair taxis use Q'Straint wheelchair straps.

Making a claim with ICBC is the right approach. Taxi's are required to have very expensive insurance because of the nature of the business and customer safety. 

PTB will not do anything, they are a bunch of bureaucrats who do not deal with safety matters.

There are numerous ways how to learn how to use Q'straints. And it should not be allowed that anyone in a vehicle with these is ignorant of their proper application.  

ICBC should be willing to at least contact the operator.