Safety Concerns for Taxi and PHV Drivers

Passenger safety is a hot topic when it comes to the taxi and minicab industry. Less frequently discussed is the safety of drivers.

According to the research of Moira Weir, an MSc transport, planning and engineering student at the Edinburgh Napier University, it is time to start.

After interviewing 75 UK taxi drivers, Ms. Weir found that more than 70% of drivers felt unsafe at work, and that almost 90% have been abused (physically or verbally) by intoxicated passengers.

Aside from these disturbing statistics, Ms. Weir also reported some shocking anecdotes that were related to her by her interviewees: one driver told of how he was held up at gun point over a £4 fare; another of how a drunken customer put his fist through a taxi partition.

And it’s not just men that cause trouble: they experience their fair share of problems with female passengers as well. A driver from Dundee reported: “I have learnt how to handle grown men when they’ve had one too many but 15-year-old girls is a different matter. I have no idea what to do with them if they become abusive. The sooner I can drop them off to their parents the better.” Another stated, “It’s gangs of women that bother me, three or four women all together. I always make sure that if one of them passes out, her friends sort her out.”

Aside from having to sort out abusive teenagers, bullies and highly intoxicated passengers, another problem that frequently plagues drivers is fare dodging. 98% of those interview reported that they have had passengers leave without paying; 45% claimed that they experience this regularly.

London Private Hire Vehicle (PHV or minicab) drivers have an elevated level of vulnerability because they do not have the safety partition that black taxis have. In addition to the problems mentioned in the study, minicab drivers must also venture into dangerous areas, putting them at risk for even more violent crimes. Because of the increased vulnerability, drivers are encouraged to not leave their vehicle, especially if it’s to collect fare from a passenger. In addition, carrying mobile phones and cash puts driver at ever higher risk.

Taxi and PHV drivers perform a critical service to their locality and are integral to the nighttime economy. Both passengers AND drivers deserve to be treated with the utmost respect, and should not have to deal with abuse or violence. One solution could be to install CCTV cameras in the vehicles– following Ms. Weir’s study, officials in Edinburgh are already looking into the possibility. However, this will probably not do much to curb the behaviours of intoxicated passengers, and others have expressed concern that cameras are unable to pick up anything that happens outside of the car.

What do YOU think? Did the studies statistics surprise you? Do you think CCTV cameras would help?

Please post comments below!

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