Will NYC Act to Get Deadly Cab Drivers Off the Streets? [Updated]

An analysis by the Post confirms that cab drivers who injure and kill pedestrians in NYC rarely face sanctions from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The cab driver who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green still has a valid hack license. Photo: @BraddJaffy

The Post examined 16 serious crashes since 2009 and found that only two drivers had their hack licenses revoked. The cabbies who killed Timothy Keith and Cooper Stock and the driver who maimed Sian Green are among those who remain in good standing with the TLC.

The Post’s Freedom of Information Act request found that 874 hacks have had their license revoked since 2009 because of point accumulations — a tiny fraction of the 51,340 licensed cabbies in NYC.

License points can accumulate through NYPD summonses or consumer complaints. According to the Post, under current rules the TLC can suspend licenses for just 30 days when a cab driver has six or more license points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points.

Summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, the Post reported, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points. To reiterate: A cabbie who gets caught doing 70 through a city neighborhood would not necessarily lose his hack license.

When a cab driver killed senior Lori Stevens in the West Village in 2012, the TLC said that unless criminal charges are filed, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency has no lawful basis for action against a cabbie who harms a pedestrian.

“If they are specific to TLC rule violations, such as 54-15(1), ‘A driver must be courteous to passengers,’ the points are accrued through a similar program called ‘Persistent Violator,'” TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg told Streetsblog today. “Here, too, six points results in a suspension, and 10 earns revocation.”

A 2004 study found that cab drivers are less crash-prone on a per-miles driven basis than other NYC motorists. But cab drivers injure and kill countless numbers of pedestrians and cyclists a year, and it is up to the city to protect the public by weeding out those who drive recklessly.

Fromberg told the Post “the agency is now exploring amending its rules so that a driver involved in a crash that kills or maims a pedestrian would have his license immediately suspended or revoked, pending an investigation of the crash.” It is not known if rule changes would require city or state legislative action, Fromberg said.

Michael Woloz, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, told Nicole Gelinas recently that today’s cabs are “roving computers that have endless capabilities.” Yet as Gelinas wrote, the TLC does not use technology like GPS or on-board cameras to track speeding and other reckless behavior. Fromberg said the TLC is “exploring ways to access more real-time accident data.”

The TLC is one of the departments tasked by Mayor Bill de Blasio to help produce a pedestrian safety plan, which is due on February 15. De Blasio has not yet named a successor to former commissioner David Yassky.

The TLC tweeted this morning that the agency is “working to develop new safety initiatives for our drivers under Vision Zero.”

Correction: This post originally stated, “In order to accumulate license points a cab driver must be summonsed by NYPD.” The copy has since been corrected. 

  • red_greenlight1

    I find it really odd that cabs don’t have GPS to record basic information such as speed, location, route and direction of travel. You’d think this would be something the cab companies would want to track their fleet. How much would this really cost to implement per cab?

  • Jeff

    They do have this, and DOT uses it in traffic studies all the time. Because we all know that helping to ensure unimpeded motoring is more important than investigating the loss of a human life.

  • Hilda

    I have filed complaints with the T&LC commission for both yellow cabs and livery cars. I have only filed complaints when the driver has acted egregiously with what seems intent to do me harm. The complaints have all resulted in points on their license, along with fines. But each time the possible punitive fines and/or points were reduced, with each driver receiving only 3 points for the complaint.
    The last time was particularly egregious, where the driver almost hit a woman in a crosswalk, then drove up the sidewalk, through a park, and into a playground. I got pictures of him in the park and in the playground. He was only fined with failure to yield.
    So there is a way to file a complaint, but it is still lacking in the punitive results.

  • red_greenlight1

    So, in theory at least, it should be pretty simple to use this data to investigate and punish infractions.

  • mrtuffguy

    While we’re regulating cabs can we install these? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzBmc3yjpoc

  • SteveVaccaro

    From what I can tell only start and stop times and locations of each fare are routinely forwarded by cab owners to DoT. Apparently when DoT is doing a traffic study they get second-by-second data, but data that robust has never been produced by DoT in response to the many TLC FOIL requests I have made.

  • red_greenlight1

    I love it! I’m sick of cabs honking incessantly. Arrive to pick someone up? Honk! Want to pick up someone flagging you down in the bike lane but bike in your way? Honk! Green light half a block up but not moving? Honk!

  • Robert Wright

    I filed a complaint to the TLC about a cab driver who had tried to undertake me when I took the lane down a street where cars were blocking most of the bike lane. It was hugely dangerous behavior. The driver then started abusing me when we met at the next traffic lights. I gave them the license number and exact time and place. They said they couldn’t identify the driver. It didn’t strike me that this was an agency dedicated to trying to tackle bad driving.

  • Brad Aaron

    Correct. Points may also accumulate through consumer complaints. This post has been amended accordingly.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I thought Bloomberg was trying to open up data to the masses. So we can get real time APP information on bike share but not on cabs? That’s crazy. If that data was transparent, it would help in a multitude of issues.

    We need good cabbies to come forward and stop the bad ones. Until there is better legislation, I’m not risking my life in a cab driven by a possible killer.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I’ve had similar experiences. I guess I’m going to start taking pictures of the folks behind the wheel to include in the complaints.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I did something similar, but took video of the guy driving into me (i was in the bike lane) and threatening my life when I confronted him. I posted it on YouTube and sent them the link. He got fined. The more helmet cams we have, the harder it is for them to push us around.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I would love to know what these fines actually are, and confirmation that they are regularly paid.

  • Jeff

    The horn is another one of those things which our culture places a massive asterisk next to when it comes to social norms. If I were to walk down the street and make an incredibly loud noise that can be heard in buildings and on the street up and down the block, by thousands of people depending on the density, I would likely be arrested, or at least socially ostracized. When’s the last time you’ve seen someone waiting at a bus stop and just start making a loud honking noise because the bus is running three seconds late?

  • red_greenlight1

    What helmet camera do you have? Do you have a link to the video?

  • red_greenlight1

    Bloomberg and openness were/ are mutually exclusive.

  • Ian Turner

    Sounds like the TLC should solicit more complaints, maybe via a process like this one:
    http://gui2de.georgetown.edu/projects/zusha/

  • JamesR

    It’s absolutely a massive cultural blindspot, and really, when you get down to it, rampant horn usage is not in any way compatible with high quality urban living. It lets folks behave in ways that’d get them taken away in a straight jacket otherwise.

  • JamesR

    One of the things you gotta bear in mind is that a ton of the drivers of these vehicles hail from countries where this sort of behavior is the norm. If you’ve ever been to the developing world, you’ve seen it first hand. It’s a difficult topic to discuss without sounding like a xenophobe, but IMO, it’s an issue of cultural behavior and its incompatibility in a new context moreso than outright rudeness

  • sadd

    I’ve a few times seen people walking down the street near forest park in kew gardens screaming rather nasty rap lyrics about raping people and what not. One difference between that and a horn is that the car is probably gone pretty quick but it can take a person a few minutes to slowly walk out of earshot.

  • KillMoto

    How ’bout every time a cabbie honks, a dollar is subtracted from the meter.

    Honking cabbies would be a thing of the past right quick!

  • Jeff

    Another difference, and the one my comment is alluding to, is that you, me, and most other people who agree to the social contract recognize that as unacceptable behavior. You wouldn’t let those people babysit your children. If someone had admitted to honking the horn in their car at some point, the vast majority (even most of us livable streets folks) would still allow them to babysit our children.

  • afk

    Yea both times I was looking around and saw a few people with their phones in hand looking out the window. Wouldn’t be surprised if they were calling the cops, to go with your point that it is recognized as unacceptable behavior.

  • TomG

    Go NY Post. What’s up with the Post doing actual journalism lately? Did the ghost of Dorothy Schiff repurchase the paper?

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