Safety has always been a huge issue for taxi drivers, as essentially they let dozens of strangers enter their vehicles during each shift, and it only takes one to put them in danger. Unfortunately, we often see stories in the news about taxi drivers who have been assaulted by passengers because they are under the influence of alcohol or are trying to get away without paying their fare.
This is why many local councils have regular meetings with taxi drivers in their constituencies – particularly public hire ones – where they discuss how to improve their safety. Some towns have already introduced taxi marshals at busy taxi ranks in order to improve the safety of both taxi drivers and those waiting for taxis; however some are thinking about going even further. For example, a number of taxi drivers and local politicians are campaigning for CCTV to be installed in all taxis, which will hopefully deter passengers from engaging in illegal activity, or will catch them if they do.
However, some taxi drivers believe that the only way to stay completely safe is to flat out refuse fares which they think will put them in danger. Recently there has been a spate of robberies and attacks on taxis drivers in the East Lincolnshire area during the early hours of the morning, which has left many taxi drivers feeling concerned about picking up such fares. Roy Grantham from Links Taxis is just one of the taxi drivers in the area who has been affected, and he believes that the situation is becoming more dangerous.
He said: “I started in 2001 and I believe it’s getting worse. We are hearing on a daily basis of people not getting paid and being threatened. I have had plenty of people refusing to pay, arguments
with people that have been abrupt towards me, but this is the worst I have felt since 2008. My views on the job at the minute aren’t very good. We are very vulnerable. I think I’m going to have to stick with it at the minute but as soon as I get the chance to get another job I will be gone. It’s just not safe.
“I’m going to be carrying on going out in the morning but I’m going to be very much more aware and self-conscious about picking people up on street corners and phone boxes. A lot of the taxi drivers I have been talking to said they are going to do the same. If they don’t like the look of somebody or are suspicious acting or who are not from a proper address they might all refuse the fare. There’s innocent people out there and you shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush but we have got to do what is safe for us.”
Paul Revell, manager of Links Taxis, understands why his staff including Paul are concerned, and added: “We have always had a problem with people not paying fares, but we have had a lot more support from the police than in the past in that they do tend to make an effort and follow up incidents in order to retrieve drivers’ fares. I can see a time where we are not going to pick anybody up in the twilight hours if they are not seen to come from an address.”
When it comes to staying safe, Revell says that taxi drivers “have got to make a decision before they have got somebody in the car. It’s very difficult if you stop and they approach the car. The best thing is to weigh it up as you’re driving – you are not necessarily their car as far as they are concerned.” Naturally, if your vehicle is damaged or your money is stolen while on a job the local police and your taxi insurance provider will be there to help, however they are not always able to solve physical or emotional injuries to the drivers themselves.
If you are ever concerned about a certain fare then it may be a good idea to adopt a policy such as Roy Grantham, and not pick up anyone unless it is from an actual address. Don’t forget that if you are affected by theft or assault by a passenger to call the police straight away, as it is likely the culprits will try the same thing again with other taxi drivers.