Bylaw officials in Whitehorse say they want to tighten and streamline its regulations for the city's taxi operators, in part to make the industry safer for passengers.

City bylaw chief John Taylor introduced a draft of the bylaw changes at Monday night's council meeting, saying safety issues for Whitehorse's 12 taxi companies must be addressed.

"We want to make sure that they're safe for the people that are getting into them," Taylor told council.

"We are putting our children into them, we're putting our elderly into them. We want to make sure that they're safe."

The city's taxi bylaws last underwent changes in 2003, addressing major issues such as mechanical safety and vehicle cleanliness.

Taylor said the latest changes call for cabbies to be banned from using cellphones in their cars at any time, meaning they would have to use a dispatch and two-way radio system instead.

The draft bylaw also calls for taxi vehicles to be taken off the road after five years.

As well, prospective cabbies would need to have a criminal record free of various violent offences for the past 15 years.

Checks can take months

Taylor said regular criminal checks, done through the RCMP, only show if a person has a record or not. Fingerprints would have to be submitted in order to get more details, and he said that process can take up to eight months.

It would not be fair to make prospective drivers wait that long for a taxi licence when their convictions are often minor and old, Taylor said.

"Between my senior constable and myself, we sit down and talk to these applicants and we pretty well have to use a gut instinct of, 'Are they telling us the truth or not?' [and] cross our fingers," he said.

The draft bylaw calls for new fares to be established, then raised each year according to increases in the cost of living.

Coun. Florence Roberts said she isn't happy with the draft bylaw, but wants to see what people think of it.

"I would like to see it go to the public and then I can discuss my qualms afterwards, too, but I think we're over-extending ourselves," she said.

City officials will be asking the public, taxi operators, RCMP and business associations to comment on the draft bylaw.