How Do You Handle Dangerous-Driving Cabbies?

carriagephoto.jpg

A reader sent in this photo of the weekend collision between a yellow cab and a horse carriage on 60th Street at Fifth Avenue. NY1 reports:

Central Park erupted into a scene of chaos early Saturday afternoon
after witnesses say a taxi heading west from 60th Street toward Fifth
Avenue hit an empty horse and buggy carriage before slamming into a
brick wall.

"Actually he was coming very high speed, too, cause
you see the big hole he made in the wall, he was coming very, very
fast," said one witness.

"All of a sudden I heard this loud thump
and I saw a horse going over toward Fifth Avenue, loose, before I saw a
couple of drivers, the carriage drivers, stop the horse and there was a
cab driver I assume it was now laying in the street," said another
witness.

The cab driver and the carriage operator were injured, while horse Blackie, miraculously, was unharmed. No word that we could find on what charges, if any, were issued (the Post says the driver "was reportedly suffering from a seizure," but gives no source).

Though animal advocates were quick to paint Saturday’s crash as further evidence that horse carriages have no place in traffic (an argument with which I personally agree), it was in fact only the latest example of cabbieinduced carnage.

The Times on Sunday ran a brief editorial reiterating the paper’s recent coverage of cab drivers and cell phones. Cab-riding New Yorkers may recognize the dangers of driving on city streets while distracted, the Times says, but few do much about it: the TLC reports just 175 complaints regarding yakking drivers through July of this year. Despite the ubiquity of the offense — when was the last time you got in a cab where the driver wasn’t on the phone? — NYPD is virtually no help, issuing under 1,000 tickets to cabbies in all of 2008, and just 232 through the first half of 2009.

Given the bleak state of enforcement, the Times advises readers to either buckle up or withhold gratuities. While option two might work on a case-by-case basis, this got us wondering: What should the protocol be for a safe streets advocate sitting behind a reckless cab driver? Confront the cabbie? Complain to TLC? Both? Or are you a conscientious objector, avoiding cabs altogether?

  • JK

    Brad, the question just what a cab passenger should do. It’s also what the city could do. TLC could easily employ the affordable and mature technology available to monitor taxi speeds in real time. There is a company hire that uses GPS to keep tabs on teen drivers for their parents. Hire them. Or, record taxi speeds in black boxes and fine drivers for speeding after the fact, or… there is a ton of tech out there. What happened to red light and speed cameras for cabs? It was said the TLC had the authority to issue summonses with them without council or state approval? Any word? Point is there is so much tech out there, it’s amazing how little is being put to work to corral the aggressive driving of the drivers who set the pace on the city’s most crowded streets. Maybe the mayor has abandoned taxi issues after the setback on mileage standards.

  • Yangmusa

    Here in SF I’m a conscientious objector. Streetsblog SF doesn’t run a cab carnage thread like in NYC, but the cab drivers are pretty bad here too. Most cab drivers appear unable to follow even the most basic of traffic laws – from excessive speeding to all manner of illegal turns endangering cyclists and pedestrians. Not to mention – the few times I HAD TO take a cab, they didn’t know where they were going and I had to talk them through it. A long way from the professionals working in European cities.

    They don’t deserve my money.

  • brent delf

    Good luck reasoning with a reckless cabbie- I’ve tried it and wow was I screamed at. The only TLC standards lower than the driving ability requirements are social and customer communication skills.

  • Free Wheel

    At a minimum cabbies should be required to have driver’s licenses.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    There are many things the city could do, but in the end it is degraded labor. The drivers are pushed beyond reasonable limits and have perverse incentives built into aggressive driver behavior. One thing the city could do is get a labor representative on the TLC. Just one, voting or non-voting. Presently the TLC is peopled by the owner class and all their decisions seek to squeeze more and more work out of the drivers. GPS, cameras, whatever, anything but establishing a system where workers can have decent wages, hours and conditions of employment. How many of these guys have health coverage? Any?

  • vnm

    To answer the question posed by the headline: I never take cabs. Between the subway (cheaper and often faster), bus, bike (no waiting and it’s great for those hard to reach spots) and walking (healthy and enjoyable), I am glad to be able to save money and derive satisfaction by not funding a reckless industry.

    I disagree with the proposition that horses have no place in traffic. Anything that works against automobile monoculture helps to add diversity to our streets, enliven our surroundings and strengthen our city fabric. Not just horse-drawn carriages, but also cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, pedicabs, buses, mounted police, segways, motorcycles, scooters, crazy bright red eight-person fun bikes, etc., all help wake motorists up a little and pay better attention to their surroundings. Bring them all on!

  • I agree with Nic. The first step toward making cabbies more responsible is to make the system act responsibly toward them. Holding them to a higher standard would be easier if they were treated decently and justly in the first place.

  • Eric

    I lived in NYC at a time when riding the subways late at night you took the risk of taking your life in your own hands. When I come back to NYC I avoid cabs completely because of how dangerous some of the cab drivers I have ridden with are. The last time I buckled the seat belt because of the driver.

    In the future I will be filing reports with the TLC now that I know I have an option. I will give the driver of every cab the option to end his phone call if I am passenger, before I get in.

  • glenn

    It’s easy – tell them “hey buddy, I’m not in a hurry, but I want to get there in one piece” and if they give any lip, I tell them it comes out of their tip.

  • I tried something like “If you want a tip, you get out of the bike lane right now”, with unimpressive results.

    Niccolo is certainly right about the degraded labor issue (ultimately, we get the cabbies that we deserve), but as long as cabbies take out their frustration on me (as a pedestrian and biker), my sympathy is limited.

    Do we know whether TLC reacts to complaints in any meaningful way? I’m somewhat pessimistic. I’ve been thinking that we may need a website similar to mybikelane.com, where people report dangerous behavior of cabbies. Then, when you get in a cab, you look up the medallion number on your cell phone and adjust your tip accordingly. It might even serve to reward good behavior. notipforyou.org is available.

  • glenn

    I wish there was a uniform card you could give to cabbies that told them (in 50 languages) that you want a safe and smooth ride and are willing to give a 20% if they comply.

    “Smooth ride” has a nice ring to it…

  • gecko

    While I haven’t been in Central Park during the wee hours on Saturday for many years, it used to be amazing the amount of devastation from road accidents on a busy Friday night.

  • pinklady

    The horse & carriage was parked,the purely innocent victim of this accident.The taxi was out of control,anybody or anything in its way was the target.If that were a Parks Dept patrol horse hit,they wouldn’t even care.Shame on the animal advocates,their mouths were watering for a accident of any kind,even if the horse and carriage was the victim and parked leagally.

  • MrManhattan

    The DOT should open up CPW to pedestrians, bikes and no-motorized vehicles just like Times and Herald Squares. It’s ridiculous that we have to deal with these mobile-death machines so close to one of the greatest parks in the world.

  • Streetsman

    I have, more times than I can count, been in taxis with drivers going at maniac speeds, darting and weaving like crazed animals. However, and don’t jump on me for suggesting this, I’m not sure the rate of reckless driving is any higher amongst cabbies than it is for private automobile drivers. There are 13,000 taxis, driving pretty much 24 hrs a day (as opposed to maybe 3 hrs/day for private cars), and taxis are highly concentrated in the densest areas of population where small mistakes have the biggest consequences. Is it possible that the prevalence of these noticeable yellow cars in crashes makes it seem like they are more dangerous drivers, but actually they drive just as dangerously as everyone else?

    It’s good to single out cabbies for targeted safety improvements since they are probably the single largest driver group in the city, but what we still have on our hands is a system-wide failure to educate, restrict, enforce and punish bad driving behavior: licenses are too easy to obtain and renew, street designs often encourage speeding and reckless driving, meaningful enforcement is next to bupkis, and the penalties are rarely little more than a slap on the wrist for murdering pedestrians. The city may be making progress on street design, and Cy Vance may turn a new leaf on punishment, but licensing and enforcement are sorely lacking. Anything that makes strides in these two areas to prevent bad driving in cabbies must immediately be scaled-up to all drivers.

  • Mark

    Please vote to have this issue fixed: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/8524

    Please also add comments about other general observations on cabs in the park.

    If enough people vote, I will forward this issue to appropriate parties responsible for the parks, surrounding streets, and local neighborhood associations.

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