Law? What Law?

This is the second of two transportation centric posts and was written by Peppercommer Deb Brown.

This certainly isn’t a scientific study by any means, but I can confidently estimate that 90 percent of all the New York City cab drivers I’ve encountered over the past few months seem to New-york-cabbie-taxi-driver-on-cell-phone forget (or conveniently ignore) the law that bans cell phone use while driving (even hands-free).  What can be so important that cab drivers have to consistently talk on their phones?  Any other person making personal calls all day at work would be fired.

The law has not stopped cab drivers from using their phones, hands-free or otherwise.  It actually seems as if the problem is getting worse.  And, the drivers honestly don’t care.  They think that you, as a passenger, either can’t hear them or you don’t care if the driver is distracted and happens to crash into the car in front or completely misses your stop.

Every time my husband and I encounter someone on the phone, we immediately inform him/her that it’s against the law.   The driver usually shrugs his shoulders, says he knows and, after dropping us off, moves on to the next passenger who is forced to play Russian Roulette with his/her life unless the passenger insists the driver stop talking on the phone. 

A year ago, my husband contacted the Taxi and Limousine Commission (T.L.C.) about a different incident.  The T.L.C. asked my husband to describe the driver, although my husband had the receipt with the taxi number.  All the T.L.C. had to do was to check to see which driver was in the cab at the time indicated on the receipt.  No, that was too easy.  The T.L.C. then asked my husband how tall the cab driver was.  “How tall?  He was sitting down!”  Needless to say, because my husband didn’t ask the driver to get out of the car and check his height with a measuring tape, the case went nowhere.  You can’t make this stuff up. 

Then, this past weekend, I blew up.  We were in a cab headed home, when my husband looked over into the front seat because something didn’t look right.  The cab driver wasn’t on the phone, but he was texting while driving!  Obviously, the law covers texting as well.  As much as I can’t tolerate a cab driver being on the phone, texting really pushes me over the edge.  The driver apologized, admitted he knew about the law– as they all say they do– but just shrugged his shoulders.  We could call the T.L.C. again, but after my husband’s last experience trying to reason with the T.L.C., it’s not worth it.

In March 2010, The New York Times reported that New York City taxi drivers “gouged riders out of millions.”   So, perhaps the T.L.C. couldn’t deal with my husband’s complaint last year because it was dealing with a major issue that was clearly impacting its image. 
Image?  Did I say image? 

Speaking of which, last November, the T.L.C. issued a new and improved dress code for the cab drivers in New York City.   “Proper dress is not something that we can enforce very easily,” said David S. Yassky, chairman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. “Nonetheless, we want to communicate to drivers that there is a standard of behavior, and that’s what the rule should get across.”

Yes, of course, we must be sympathetic to the T.L.C.’s plight of trying to enforce a dress code.  If they can’t enforce a dress code easily, how can we possibly expect them to enforce the correct rates or enforce no cell phone use while driving?  And, it’s really nice to know how much the T.L.C. cares about its image and has its priorities in the right order.

Unfortunately, I fear it’s going to take a fatal accident– or accident – and a multimillion dollar lawsuit– or multiple lawsuits– against the City and the T.L.C. to get them to take passengers’ complaints seriously and enforce the law (the one about no cell phone use while driving…not the one about the clothes).  But, if the cab driver crashes, hopefully he’ll at least look good when the police show up. 

T.L.C. should no longer stand for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, but rather The Law is of no Consequence.

4 thoughts on “Law? What Law?

  1. Next time you see the driver on the phone, maybe you should interrupt him and asked him if you can use the phone to make a call. Then if he should give it to you, throw it out the window.

  2. Hi Greg — good thoughts, but we had all the relevant info when my husband called the T.L.C. the first time. We just didn’t have his height. Unbelievable. The crash helmet is probably the way to go. Complaining to the T.L.C. doesn’t seem to work. By the way, my husband and I needed to take a cab home last night and, once again, the cab driver was talking on the phone. I think my 90 percent estimate is too low.

  3. Be careful here, Deb. If you have to get out a measuring tape, this would sound more appropriate for Ed’s “Measuring Up.”
    Seriously, though. Maybe you need to take a snapshot of the driver before you get in the cab and copy down his license number. Or maybe you ought to come equipped with a crash helmet, since the airbags are usually in the front of the car.