Friday 23 March 2018

Taxi! Four of the most common cab horror stories - and what taxi drivers have to say in response

'He slapped at her hand... smashing the iPhone to the ground'

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Blanaid Barr

Quick fact - Dublin currently has around the same number of taxis as New York City, despite having seven million fewer people.

Nationwide, the National Transport Authority (NTA) receives around a thousand complaints a year about Ireland's taxi service.

We investigated four of the most common horror stories about the country's cabs - and found out what the Irish Taxi Driver's Federation have to say in response.

1. 'No short fares' from Dublin Airport

A common complaint received by the NTA involves taxis at Dublin Airport being unhappy, or unwilling to take short fares.

One slighted passenger Claire Boshell spoke to about her experience this summer. After returning from a holiday in Barcelona, an airport taxi driver swore at the couple when they asked for a short journey.

Ms Boshell said; "We were both confused. We weren’t sure if he was joking."

When the couple got into the taxi they claimed they endured a stressful ride; "He rushed taking the corners in every street and was speeding as if it was an ambulance. I am sure he was hitting 80km even coming up to roundabouts."

After the journey, when they tried to take a picture of the taxi in order to report the driver they alleged that he rolled down the window and began to shout abuse at the couple.

"We were scared in the car," said Ms Boshell.

"And then the anger set in when we got out because we realised how badly we were treated... as if it’s our fault we live close to the airport."

The couple submitted an official complaint to the taxi regulator and have since spoken to an enforcement officer about the issue.

It is illegal for drivers to refuse customers due to journey length.

Joe Herron, President of the Irish Taxi Driver’s Federation told; "It’s just human nature,  if they’ve had a bad morning then they might show that they’re upset. They shouldn’t show it, but they might. No week’s pay is made of one journey."


2. 'Aggressive' behaviour

The majority of complaints received by the NTA this year were about driver conduct (a total of 353). Many passengers reported feeling "unsafe" in the vehicle due to the behaviour of the driver.

One such incident occurred in August 2016 when an aggressive driver broke a passengers’ mobile phone.

The couple were picked up in Swords village, and originally asked the driver to take them to Tyrrelstown. After the taxi departed they changed their destination to Ashbourne. The man reports; "He got extremely angry with us and told us to get out of his car."

The man's wife became upset and tried to take a photo in the car in order to make a report, but the couple alleged that the driver shouted at her and "slapped at her hand knocking my iPhone from her hands and smashing it on the ground."

This incident was reported to the Garda Síochána pending investigation.

Mr Herron was critical towards the NTA for including complaints about driving being documented within the section of driver behaviour.

"It’s the passenger’s impression of the driving, and what they think the rules should be," he said.

He claimed that issues with driver aggression outside of driving were very low and that leads to them becoming highly publicised.


3. 'Dangerous' driving

Complaints of taxis "stopping rapidly" and "swerving to pick up fares" have soared in recent years.

One cyclist wrote on to complain about the issue.

"Almost every single day now I have been put into dangerous situations and it’s really starting to take a toll on me mentally," he wrote.

The young man began cycling to work in Dublin city centre in 2016 and strongly believes that the dangerous driving of some taxi drivers is causing serious problems for these commuters.

"I really love cycling and I take the rules and my safety seriously. It’s a damn shame for anyone who feels too scared to cycle because of negligent road users," he added.

Mr Herron responded on taxi drivers' behalf; "The cyclists are a huge problem for us, not all of them, but a minority make the road very dangerous.

"They wander in and out and cycle two-abreast, sometimes not even using the cycle lane when there is one there. There needs to be more prosecution around dangerous cycling," he added.


4. Disputed fares

Issues surrounding fares also contributed to a large amount of complaints received by the NTA (a total of 284). Last month, gardaí instituted several checkpoints near Dublin Airport and caught five drivers taking longer routes for larger fares.

In February of this year, an Indian national complained to the NTA after they were over-charged €18 by an airport taxi.

Separately, a Dublin taxi driver was fined €1,050 in 2015 after being taken through Dublin District Court for charging €47 for a €15 fare.

Some mytaxi app customers reported that they were charged unofficial pickup fees and drivers 'forgot' to turn off their meter at the end of the journey, leading to their credit card being charged.

Mr Herron claimed that this only contributed to a small number of complaints; "These incidents shouldn’t occur.

"The fact is that the route is the passengers choice, it should always remain the passengers choice. It might just be driver ignorance, if they don’t know that there is a shorter route."

With the number of complaints against taxi growing, Mr Herron said he wanted to keep everything in perspective; "Everything needs to be taken in context.

"There is only roughly one complaint for every 10,000 journeys, that’s a pretty good ratio," he said.

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