New York City proposes crackdown on taxi driver sexual harassment

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NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - New York City's taxi authority plans new rules for drivers that will impose tougher penalties for sexually charged comments and contact with passengers amid growing concern about harassment.

SEE ALSO: Transgender woman sexually assaulted at iconic LGBT bar

The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which licenses about 150,000 drivers of yellow cabs and other for-hire vehicles such as Uber and Lyft, wants to curb unwanted communication and touching as the number of drivers has significantly grown.

The TLC said the regulations are meant to clear up any confusion about what defines sexual harassment as more drivers enter the industry.

The behavior is already prohibited under a broad definition against threats, harassment or abuse, but the commission's goal is clear up any confusion about what defines sexual harassment said TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg.

The agency plans to debate the proposal at an April 21 meeting.

"This rule amendment would provide clear definitions of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact, which would help TLC prosecution enforce its rules and protect our passengers," he said in a statement.

Related: See the evolution of NYC taxis:

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Evolution of NYC Cabs, Taxis
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New York City proposes crackdown on taxi driver sexual harassment
Taxi cabs are seen at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in New York City, in 1924. (AP Photo)
Inspector Walsh (right, with notepad) condemns a taxicab after the New York City's Mayor's Bureau of Licenses passed new ordinance regulating taxicab meters, August 1913. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - CIRCA 1938: Taxis line up out side of the Cotton Club at Broadway and 48th Street circa 1938 in New York City, New York. (Photo by George Karger/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 04: Empty New York taxis fill Terminal System yard, at 11th and 45th Streets, during taxi strike. (Photo by Walter Engels/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
The new model taxi cab from Chevrolet is shown in New York City, May 17, 1950. The Taxicab bureau is prepared to buy up to 1,400 of the Chevrolets to replace the larger and more expensive cabs now on the streets. (AP Photo/Carl Nesensohn)
This is one of about 1,000 five-passenger cabs already on the streets that the Police Department Hack Bureau has authorized in New York, seen Jan. 30, 1957. (AP Photo)
(GERMANY OUT) Taxi cabs in front of a public building in New York- 1950ies (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
An abandoned New York taxi during a mock hydrogen bomb attack, which was staged in sixty US cities. Original Publication: Picture Post - 7882 - The Ten Minutes That Shook America - pub. 1955 (Photo by George Konig/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 1960: People and taxi congest a crowded New York City street along 5th Ave. at 50th street. (Photo by Leonard McCombe/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Cabbies wait by their vehicles in a holding area at New York's LaGuardia Airport in Queens, waiting their turn for a $10 fare into midtown Manhattan, Sept. 9, 1974. (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY: View of 5th Avenue in New York City in July 1970. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystine via Getty Images)
Yellow cabs waiting in line at LaGuardia Airport, New York City, March 1974. (Photo by Michael Brennan/Getty Images)
'Richard Clayderman am 01.03.1979 am Times Square in New York, USA. (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)'
Inge Meysel, neben den Dreharbeiten zum TV-Special 'Grenzenloses Himmelblau', New York/USA/Nordamerika, Broadway, vor dem Musical-Theater vom Musical '42nd Street', 15.10.1984, Taxi, 'Yellow Cab', Schauspielerin, Promis, Prominenter, Prominente, (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)
NASCAR driving champ Rusty Wallace takes the wheel of a New York City taxi cab Wednesday, November 29,1989 while in town to pick up his $1,000,000 bonus money for winning the Winston Cup Championship in NASCAR competition. Wallace is from Charlotte, N.C. (AP Pgoto/Tim Clary)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1900: American taxis in New York, United States - Manhattan, yellow cabs. (Photo by Gerard SIOEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
New York street scene, with graffiti on shop shutters reading 'this is street level', New York, USA, 1990's (Photo by Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Taxis sit idle awaiting business at New York's LaGuadia Airport 17 September 2001. Taxis are feeling the impact of few passengers returning to air travel at one of New York's busiest airports as a result of passenger security concerns and the use of hijacked airliners by terrorists to attack New York and Washington 11 September. (Photo credit should read TANNEN MAURY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: Guests take a ride in a cab at the Cotton Inc. Booth during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2007 February 5, 2007. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images for Cotton Inc.)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: A taxi turns onto Park Avenue from 60th Street in New York, on Aug. 14, 2007. New York City will receive $354 million to reduce traffic into Manhattan if the Legislature approves a plan consistent with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's goals to cut congestion and pollution, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 29: Michael Jackson's image is shown on a taxi on the streets of Manhattan on June 29, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06: Ford Taxi Debuts In New York City on September 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for Ford)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26: A cab drives through Times Square ahead of mandatory street closures on January 26, 2015 in New York City. New York, and much of the Northeast, is bracing for a major winter storm which is expected to bring blizzard conditions and 10 to 30 inches of snow to the area. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/10/17: Yellow taxi or cab in midtown. The vehicle is the center of an everyday crowded scene in the downtown of NYC one of the most populous city in America. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The new rules would also ban drivers from commenting on the appearance and gender of their passengers, as well as expressing desire to enter into any relationship.

Sexual harassment offenders, under the proposal, would face a $1,000 fine, three points on a driver's license and a 30-day suspension or revocation, while sexual contact would carry a $2,000 fine and a mandatory revocation.

The number of for-hire drivers in the city increased by 40 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to TLC data. Meanwhile, complaints of all kinds rose by roughly 23 percent, from 17,000 to about 21,000. Sexual harassment complaints made up less than 1 percent of those complaints.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents taxi drivers, did not respond to requests for comment on the proposal.

The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault praised the TLC's actions, but prodded the commission to go even further.

"In order to really stop sexual assault and rape cases, drivers should receive more prevention training," said spokeswoman Min Um-Mandhyan.

Earlier this month, two New York City council members introduced legislation that would require all ride-hailing drivers to undergo sexual assault prevention training.

Ride-sharing services have been linked to several high-profile sex assault cases in the United States and abroad in recent years.

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