PHOENIX - For the first time, drivers of taxi cabs and limousines in Arizona will soon be subject to random drug testing.
Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation this week that will require those who own or lease out taxis and other vehicles for hire to screen applicants for drugs at the time they are hired or allowed to lease one of the vehicles. That is on top of an existing requirement for a criminal background check.
And drivers also will be subject to random tests at least once a year.
The measure takes effect later this year.
Kevin Tyne, director of the Department of Weights and Measures, stressed this is not a new government program with the state going out and stopping drivers. Instead, he said it's designed to make the owners of the vehicles more responsible.
But he said it is up to those owners to decide what to do with the test results: Nothing in the new law prohibits a company from hiring or refusing to fire a driver who tests positive. That mirrors the existing laws on background checks, with no prohibition against hiring certain felons.
Still, Tyne said, this is a big step for Arizona.
"Nearly every other jurisdiction that regulates and oversees and licenses 'for hire' vehicles like taxis and liveries and limousines has some sort of a basic drug-testing requirement," he said. "Arizona was noticeably absent in that regard."
He said many people use taxis and limousines, both local residents and visitors.
"Patrons ought to have some basic sense that the driver has at least been drug-tested," Tyne said.
The legislation is unrelated to the incident a week ago where five people riding in a limousine south of San Francisco were killed in a fire.
BY THE NUMBERS
According to the Governor's Office, there are 6,449 "for hire" vehicles in Arizona. But the number of drivers is closer to 13,000.