Every year members of the public are reminded to stay safe when it comes to taking taxis at Christmas, as unless they are booked in advance you might be unwittingly stepping into an unlicensed vehicle. Illegal minicabs are not only a danger to passengers but also reputable taxi drivers who may lose out on business because of the increasing amount of rogue drivers on the roads during the festive period.
Unfortunately, this fear of unlicensed minicabs is expected to lead to taxi Apps such as Uber and Bounce becoming more popular over the next few weeks. One of the benefits of these Apps is that even if you are getting a minicab it is technically ‘booked’ before it arrives and most of these types of Apps provide information on the vehicle and driver to your phone. In fact, the mobile App ‘Bounce’ recently published statistics showing that a worrying 58% of women in Central London have knowingly taken an unlicensed minicab home, while 70% have gotten into the back of a minicab without checking that it is TfL licensed.
Discussing the issue, Nicko Williamson, CEO of Bounce, said: “We are on a mission to change this by not forcing women to compromise; letting passengers book safe, great value journeys with TfL licensed drivers through the Bounce app.” During the Christmas period most taxi fares are higher especially during peak times, which is why Bounce and other Apps are offering special discounts to their customers in order to encourage them to use their services.
However, it’s not just passengers that need to remember to stay safe over the Christmas period, as during this time the number of attacks on taxi drivers tends to rise. Unfortunately, as so many people attend events during Christmas there are not always enough taxis to go around, especially when pubs and clubs close and hundreds of people are all trying to get home at once.
In order to resolve this issue, local authorities in large towns and cities set up taxi ranks with marshals whose job it is to make sure that passengers get home safely and taxi drivers don’t have to deal with unruly fares. In one of our previous blogs QuoteSearcher looked at the reasons why taxi drivers are allowed to legally refuse fares, which include:
- If a passenger asks to pay by credit/debit card and you do not have the right technology installed in your vehicle to accept these types of payments.
- If a passenger asks you to take them somewhere ‘unreasonable’ – this could be another city or county well out of your way. However, you need to be able to prove that your fare is making an unreasonable request.
- If your fare threatens you or is refusing to make payment.
By law, taxi drivers are not allowed to refuse any reasonable fare or make judgements against their passengers based on race, religion, physical disability, sex or sexual orientation. This is why if you want to refuse a fare you need to make sure you are doing so legally, otherwise you could find yourself being prosecuted.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the only way for both taxi drivers and passengers to stay safe over the Christmas period is to utilise taxi Apps, however some taxi associations claim that these are not always safe or legal. Public hire drivers often claim that the use of Apps such as Uber is illegal as they are technically privately booked taxis even though they use a meter and are therefore breaking the law.
Furthermore, Uber has recently come under fire in New York as The Committee For Taxi Safety has claimed that the App does not respect users’ privacy. In a statement they said: “We are calling upon the TLC to immediately begin an official investigation into Uber’s usage of passenger data and the ‘God View’ technology. We also ask that their license be suspended until the riding public can be assured that their privacy and data and safe….their threat against journalists should similarly be punished.”
QuoteSearcher’s Top Tips for Taxi Safety at Christmas
- Always try and book ahead – this means that you are less likely to be left waiting for a taxi and you will know that the driver is licensed.
- If using minicabs or other public hire taxis always attempt to use a marshalled taxi rank.
- Double-check that your taxi driver has a valid licence before getting in their vehicle.
- Know the law when it comes to refusing fares.
- Keep in touch with other drivers in the area to stay informed of any rogue drivers or unruly fares.
- Contact the police if you are concerned for your or your passengers’ safety. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!