D.C. Taxicab Commission proposes panic buttons for passengers

(Photo: John Hendel)

While some cabs in D.C. already have a safety switch that turns on a "Call 911" light at the top of the car, the D.C. Taxicab Commission now wants passengers to have a panic button, too.

Some passengers say they'd feel safer with the option, especially since seven arrests of D.C. cabdrivers have been arrested for allegedly physically assaulting riders.

Cab drivers say the panic button is a necessary tool to prevent crimes. Last October, a driver died in a shooting after a dispute over 75 cents.

According to the commission, if the button is pushed, MPD should arrive on the scene within minutes.

Some worry about the strain this would cause law enforcement. On Monday morning, Montgomery County Police were dispatched after a Maryland cab driver accidentally pushed his panic button while sleeping.

"We treat calls for crimes in progress as serious and would respond accordingly," said MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.

The D.C. Taxicab Commission said it hopes a proposed surcharge of up to 50 cents per ride would help pay for the installation of panic buttons as well as other proposed advanced features, like credit card machines and GPS units.

The panic buttons are expected to be installed in all D.C. cabs by December.

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