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NewsNew York

City bans hands-free devices in cabs

Cabs have a new code of silence.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission passed stiff new rules Thursday that bans hacks from speaking on any cell phone, including hands-free devices.

Those caught chatting away will be slapped with a $200 fine and a mandatory course that includes a “truly horrifying video” about distracted driving, the TLC said. Drivers would lose their TLC license after the third infraction.

"This was a major victory for the riding and walking public," said TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus.

The taxi industry came around on supporting the rules once they allowed drivers to talk to dispatchers through a phone mounted on their dashboards.

“We all realize there are some pitfalls to speaking on the phone. Who doesn’t want to be safe?” said Sergio A. Sanchez, president of the Luxury Base Operators Association, which represents 3,000 area drivers.

The rules take effect later next month. In other taxi news:

- The TLC has chosen eight locations to set up group ride stands, where strangers could share cabs along common routes. The locations are scattered around midtown and major transportation hubs, with the pilot program starting in the next few weeks.

- The agency is soliciting designs for the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a more compact, fuel-efficient vehicle that would be intentionally designed as a cab. The cab will be cleaner, more comfortable and feature updated safety elements instead of interior partitions, the TLC said. The agency expects the cabs to hit the streets by October 2014, with all retired vehicles replaced with the new design. '

“The time to develop the taxi of tomorrow is today,”  said Daus, in an announcement Thursday.

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