Con Ed Recruits Cabbies to Guard Electrified NYC Shock Spots

Utility crews have discovered so many stray voltage areas where pedestrians walk that Consolidated Edison Inc. has hired hundreds of cab drivers to park and stand guard until repairs are done.

More than 1,900 hot spots with stray current — manholes, grates or other items that can deliver shocks — were found last year by roving vans as part of a safety program prompted by the 2004 electrocution of a woman walking her dogs.

The utility has been unable to guard all the areas with its own vehicles, so in the past six months it has turned to livery cab drivers for help, company spokesman Chris Olert said Thursday.

The drivers park near marked-off danger spots. Placards on their cars explain that the area contains "an extremely dangerous electrified object or structure" and the driver is there to guard it from pedestrians.

"It's an efficient way to protect the public," said Olert, noting that it might cost more to hire someone else — say, a security guard — to stand vigil.

"I just watch and make sure no one goes near it," driver Zafrul Islam told the Daily News. Islam, a driver for Brooklyn-based Executive Transportation, has guarded several hot spots around the city.

The company would not say how much it was spending on hiring the drivers or how much individual drivers were paid. About 1,000 livery cab drivers have been involved since the effort began, the company said.

Con Edison agreed to spend about $10 million on stray-voltage detectors and other safety programs following the death of Jodie Lane, 30, who was killed when she stepped on the metal cover of a utility box in Manhattan's East Village in January 2004.

"Cones and cabs, policemen and firemen — whoever they put there that will protect the pedestrian from inadvertently walking on top of it is fine with me," said Lane's father, Roger Lane.