A Windsor taxi driver who was assaulted over the weekend has had two surgeries and may have permanent eye damage, raising fears for the safety of drivers, according to a union representative.
The Vets Cab driver was driving down Erie Street West before 9:30 p.m. Saturday when he heard an object hit the side of his vehicle, Windsor police said. The driver was between Victoria and Ouellette avenues when he stopped to see what had happened and noticed two men walking in the area.
A man approached the driver’s window and smashed it, seriously injuring the driver. He was sent to hospital and two suspects fled, police said.
“All that glass shattered and went right in his eye,” said Emile Nabbout, president of Unifor Local 195, which represents up to 350 Vets Cab drivers.
“You go to work, you’re looking for a paycheck, you don’t anticipate for some reason someone walking by would hurt someone paying a paycheck. It’s devastating for him, for our members, for the family .”
Nabbout said the worker, whose name has not been released, has had two surgeries since the incident and may have permanent vision loss in one eye.
The man recently moved to Windsor from another city with his family, Nabbout said, and has been driving for a year.
Nabbout said the family is particularly concerned because the driver is not eligible for employment insurance because he is an independent contractor.
“The other challenge we have with this industry is that our workers cannot get compensation,” he said. “If you can’t work, you can’t earn money.”
The driver cannot return to work, Nabbout said.
Drivers subjected to violence on every trip
Shortly after the incident, Nabbout said its members held a meeting to discuss the safety concerns of many drivers and to share information on how to stay safe.
“This is not the first incident we have had with taxi drivers, our members have been stabbed in the past or robbed or attempted to rob,” Nabbout said.
“Every time they pick up and serve the community, they are subjected to some type of violence or altercation.”
Car cameras and other safety measures have been adopted by the company, but Nabbout said there is little drivers can do to protect themselves and their passengers.
In a statement to CBC News, Windsor Police noted that there are inherent risks in driving a taxi or rideshare vehicle, including working alone at all hours of the day and night. and not knowing the customers.
Police offered safety trips for drivers:
- Keep very little cash on hand and never have cash visible to passengers;
- Always tell the dispatcher where you are going and stay in communication;
- Do not tint the windows of the vehicle;
- When waiting for a call or ticket, stay in well-lit areas, park in areas equipped with security cameras whenever possible, and keep doors locked while parking;
- Trust your instincts and refuse the fare if something is wrong;
- Invest in security cameras for the vehicle and place signs outside and inside the car that tell passengers that there are cameras on board, and
- Call the police if someone fails to pay for a fare (drivers should not try to handle the situation themselves).
Police ask public for help
Windsor Police said officers are investigating the weekend aggravated assault incident and are looking for two suspects.
Anyone with information, surveillance video or a dash cam is asked to contact the police.
Police have also released a photo of two vehicles that were in the area at the time of the incident and would like to speak to the owners or drivers of the vehicles. These vehicles are not believed to be involved in the incident, but the drivers may have valuable information for police, they said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Windsor Police Department at 519-255-6700 ext. 4830, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 519-258-8477, or online at www.catchcrooks.com.