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Councilman Proposes Black Boxes To Monitor Taxi Drivers' Speed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A plan has been introduced to track New York City cabs, in an effort to curb speeding and other dangerous driving habits.

As CBS 2's Sonia Rincon reported Thursday, even taxi drivers themselves will sometimes admit that taxi break the speed limits on city streets – driven not by them, but by other taxi drivers.

"I do see that," said taxi driver Mohammed Salo. "(It's) 30 (mph), but some do more than 30."

City Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D-13th) said taxis set the standard for other drivers in the city. With speeding under attack under Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero plan to reduce deadly crashes, Vacca has proposed outfitting taxis with the same type of technology that records data in planes and trains.

"I want a black box in taxis, because taxis have got to be part of the solution to speeding," Vacca said. "I want them to slow down. I want passengers to feel safe in these cabs."

The boxes would report the taxis speed back to the TLC, as well as other movement and sudden stops. Passengers who talked to CBS 2's Rincon liked the idea.

"It's all about public safety, and we want everyone to be safe," said passengers James Cara.

Some drivers did not mind the idea either.

"I don't have a problem about it. I feel it's in the right direction," Salo said.

But other taxi drivers wanted to know more.

"What it all entails about it, because every time they come up with something, you know, they say it's for the best," said taxi driver Emilio Rivera. "I don't know. I can't say."

Vacca's proposal is just for a pilot program to see what the black box technology can do. It would not include any enforcement or penalties for drivers.

But some drivers and their advocates were worried such enforcement and penalties would soon follow.

"From what we understand, the discussions for the black boxes for the taxis go far beyond just accident data," said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "There's even been talk about using this technology to turn off the meter or reduce the fare in the middle of a trip, and I mean, how can that kind of meter tampering, you know, be good for anybody?"

Taxi driver and Taxi Workers Alliance member Beres Ford Simmons agreed that the black box technology would likely end up being bad news for drivers.

"It's not necessary, because really eventually if it becomes part of the industry, we the drivers are the ones who are most likely going to have to pay for it," Simmons said.

For its part, the Taxi and Limousine Commission said it supports Vacca's proposal and to working on the next steps.

A bill for the data recording devices was introduced before the City Council on Thursday. There was no word on how much the black boxes would cost; the pilot program would determine that as well.

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