Cab drivers forced off road by security fear
Cab drivers are forced off the roads at night because of fears about drunken passengers and security problems, the head of the industry’s trade body said yesterday.
But David Frost, president of the Bermuda Taxi Operators Association, said the industry was looking at ways to increase the number of cabs on the roads on peak nights after complaints that there were few taxis available when police launched their first roadside breath test checkpoints last month.
Mr Frost said: “Gone are the days you can pick up safely at night — almost every night driver has a horror story, a robbing — some have been held at knifepoint.
“Often at night the road becomes a racetrack. I’m willing to bet more vehicles get destroyed at night.
“Then you have people throwing up in you cab. What’s the recourse?
“The Transport Control Department will tell you to go to court, file a complaint and collect your money.
“In three months you may get them paying you back $10 a week for what can cost $600.”
He added that the island’s culture of drink-driving also meant that taxi operators reckoned there was a higher risk of crashes at night because of impaired drivers and riders.
Mr Frost was speaking as police prepared to set up roadside breath test checkpoints again this weekend.
Mr Frost said: “We understand there are concerns out there and we know how dire the problem is. Every problem in the past has been caused by giving a simple solution to a complex problem.”
He added that the BTOA had held several meetings to discuss improvements to the service and planned to meet government representatives to look at ways to boost taxi numbers on the streets.
Mr Frost said taxis had been also been held up by traffic queues during last month’s breath test blitz and that cabs should have a fast lane to bypass police checkpoints.
However, Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of the police traffic unit, dismissed the call for special treatment for taxi drivers.
He said: “No one gets a free pass through any roadside sobriety checkpoint. We work hard to keep delays to a minimum. Mr Cardwell added: “We have arrested taxi drivers at the wheel of their taxi in the past for impaired driving offences, usually after they have been involved in a collision.”
Mr Frost said that the average taxi owner spent 13 hours on duty but the hours could be increased by renting the vehicles out to other drivers.
He added that owners would need to be sure that, in the event of a crash, relief drivers would have their own insurance.
Mr Frost said: “We’re proposing to insurance companies that the individual driver is insured — the vehicle will be insured but the person driving also has insurance.
“Then the taxis will be on the road for longer and we can get some of these hours covered.”
He added that many of the island’s 570 taxis focused on predictable weekday work like visitor tours and airport and hotel fares, as well as corporate clients, who paid for cabs to wait and reduced drivers’ time on the roads.
Mr Frost said: “That corporate driver who is not working Saturday and Sunday would be able to make money as the car would still be on the road at the weekend.”
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