NEW YORK — A public hearing on controversial distracted driving rules that would heavily regulate the use of electronic devices by chauffeurs will be held tomorrow before the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, which is expected to approve a modified version, industry sources say.
Under the proposed rules, chauffeurs will be able to engage in hands-free communications with dispatchers only through devices mounted on the dashboard. But cell phone use and hands-free cell phoning, such as through Bluetooth or headsets, will be prohibited while the engine is on.
The compromise would allow chauffeurs to legally exchange information with dispatch centers on routine location notifications and client pick-up/drop-off status updates, and relay emergency information while on the road.
Sergio Sanchez, president of the Luxury Base Operators Association, said the modifications ensure that safety comes first while preserving the need of chauffeurs to communicate. “This will allow our members to operate business as usual,” Sanchez said.
The modified rules resulted from meetings between TLC staff and Sanchez and with Barry Lefkowitz, executive director of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey. The TLC sought feedback from LANJ, LBOA, and other transportation groups representing luxury limousine vehicles, black cars, and taxi-cabs on the proposal that essentially bans electronic communications while driving, including hands-free cell phoning and GPS navigation. Chauffeurs and drivers who violate the rules would face stiff fines and possible revoked licenses.
The TLC measures are in response to rampant cell phone abuse among cabbies, which has become a safety threat and an affront to clients in the back seat.
Lefkowitz said Monday he still planned one more conference call today with TLC officials to work out any last-minute adjustments of the measure. The public hearing will be held Thursday, Dec. 17 at 1:30 pm at 40 Rector on the 5th Floor.
The text of the proposed exemption is as follows:
Conditions of Operation for For-Hire Vehicle Drivers.
“A driver shall not use a [telephone] portable or hands-free electronic device while operating a for-hire vehicle, unless such for-hire vehicle shall be lawfully standing or parked, with the engine off. “Use” of a portable or hands-free electronic device means that the driver is deploying any of the functions of the portable or hands-free electronic device, or has a device that permits the hands-free use of a portable or hands-free electronic device in the immediate proximity of the driver’s ear. “Use” of a portable or hands-free electronic device by a driver does not include a short, solely business-related communication in connection with a dispatch from a base using a FCC-licensed commercial two-way radio or if the electronic device used is mounted in a fixed position in the vehicle and is not hand-held, and if the communication is by voice or by use of one-touch pre-programmed buttons or function keys.”
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine