CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH » DRIVING
Kids in cabs: School boards say they're
cheaper than buses
Broadcast: Feb 24, 2004
It's one thing if you grab a cab - another
it's kids who are being taken for a ride. When we discovered
some school boards are hiring cabs instead of school buses
to take children to school, Marketplace decided
take a look.
We found some very upset parents. Among them,
Kelly Bonehill of Georgetown, Ontario, northwest of Toronto.
had difficulty in school and was enrolled in a five week program
for kids with learning disabilities at a neighbouring school.
Because it was in a different town, his regular school provided
'There was just
something not right.' Kelly Bonehill
“The cab came to the house and he said
'I’m going now,'" Kelly remembers. "And he
gave me a hug. And he walked out the door and he actually
came back and gave me another hug, which I thought was very
strange because, you know, there was just something not right."
A video shot on that day shows Alex telling
his classmates about his favourite book. Class ends and Alex
gets in a cab, waiting outside. He sits behind the driver.
As the taxi heads towards Alex’s home, the cab suddenly
crosses over the centre line of the road into the path of
an oncoming tractor-trailer. The driver of the cab is critically
injured. Another student in the car is suffers cuts and bruises.
But the unimaginable happens to Kelly Bonehill.
Alex dies in hospital from a head injury.
When you take a cab, if you don't feel safe,
you can always get out. But for kids, it's different. They
may lack the confidence or life experience to make that kind
of judgment. It turns out, many schools across the country
are using cabs to transport kids.
School boards we talked to give a range of reasons
for hiring cabs - from picking up a few kids who live off
bus routes, to saving money - they say it can be cheaper than
using a school bus.
The driver of Alex’s taxi, Lisa Broatch,
was charged with careless driving. In
court, the rest of her recent driving record
is revealed. Three speeding convictions in two years. The
most recent charge was just two weeks before the accident:
driving 125 kilometres per hour in an 80
stopped using taxis 3 years ago says board official Michael
Broatch’s lawyer - Haig De Rusha - says
transporting kids puts additional pressures on cabbies.
“I would expect some of the school bus
training would involve how to look after children, deal with
them, so you’re asking cab drivers to take on a role
for which they’re not specifically trained.”
The training requirements for cabbies and school
bus drivers vary depending on where you live.
In Ontario, school bus drivers have to pass
a provincial exam and a minimum nine-hour driver-training
course. Cab drivers simply need a standard driver’s
license. Bus drivers are re-tested and must pass written
exams every 5 years. For cabbies, there’s no such re-testing.
“If they’re hiring transportation
for children, whether it be bus, plane, train, or cab, the
drivers should meet the same standards,” Kelly Bonehill
Marketplace wanted to ask the Halton
District School Board - the board which
hired the cab - about the concerns of Kelly Bonehill. The board
declined an on-camera interview. But on the phone, spokesperson
Marnie Denton said using taxis actually promotes safety.
'I strongly oppose
using cabs as transportation for kids.' Louis Patkai,
father of boy injured in accident
"It’s safer than having kids standing
at side of busy street waiting for a bus," she said.
The board also says it does not screen cabbies
for their driving records.
In Quebec, Montreal's English school board stopped
using taxis three years ago.
“Even if it’s a handful of kids
taking a taxi, that’s too many, in my opinion,”
said Michael J. Cohen, board spokesman. “Kids were being
dropped off in the wrong place.”
Many school boards require a criminal check
on cab drivers, a copy of the driver’s record and some
even insist on the same driver every day. But most leave the
selection of drivers up to the cab companies.
Nine months after Alex’s death, the Halton
District School Board is still using the same cab company.
We made attempts in person and on the phone to interview Harry
Brar, the owner of Milton taxi.
He hasn’t called us back.
“I understand they’ve been using
cabs a long time but there has been a horrible accident that
could have been avoided. There needs to be change to make
sure that this never happens again, ever,” Kelly Bonehill
Lisa Broatch, Alex’s cab driver, agrees.
In January, she was convicted of careless driving. She was
sentenced to 45 days in jail, a $250 fine, and her driver’s
license was suspended for one year.
As for the other passenger in the taxi, Dustin
Patkai now walks to school, or his dad picks him up.
“Dustin does not want to sit in a cab
and he is hesitant to go in a car of any
sort with an acquaintance or maybe a stranger," Dustin's
father, Louis, said. "I strongly oppose using cabs as transportation
for kids, no question. Unfortunately, in my opinion something
like this has to happen in order to make some people realize
that that is not appropriate."
Driver of the car,
Lisa Broatch, sentenced to 45 days in jail and fined for
A roadside memorial for Alex stands at the place
where the accident occurred. In Georgetown, there's also a
memorial at the playground of Alex’s school. The school
board says it has no plans to stop using taxis to transport
kids.In the meantime, Alex’s mother is pushing for a
coroner’s inquest into her son’s death.