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Taxi Safety: Guidance for taxi drivers

As a taxi driver you are dealing with strangers, often in isolated places and carrying cash.†Taking people off the streets or from ranks with no knowledge of their home address or telephone number means that if they cause trouble you are especially vulnerable. If you work at night you are likely to have to deal with people who have drunk too much alcohol. All this means you may be at risk of violence.

This guide is designed to help you protect your safety.

Cash management

  • If you can, drop off cash during your shift so that you carry as little in your car as you can.†If this isn't possible, keep your cash hidden from view in a secure box.

Adjustments to your vehicle

  • Some drivers of saloon cars fit their car with a screen to protect them from assault. Screens are made from materials that withstand a knife attack or hard body impact, and can be fitted and taken out easily.
  • Installing CCTV cameras has been shown to lead to reduced threats and violence against drivers. Signs in the vehicle can highlight the presence of CCTV to passengers. These cameras can be bought or rented, and the cost may be offset by reduced insurance premiums. They can be useful when there is a dispute with a passenger, as it provides you with evidence you otherwise wouldn't have.
  • Fitting a convex mirror that gives you a full view of the rear of your car will help you to see what a passenger directly behind you is doing.

If you are linked to a control centre

  • Use your radio to tell them where you are going. This will mean the controller has the information, and the passenger will know they do. Alert the controller of any changes along the way.
  • Have a pre-arranged code word that you can use if a passenger becomes threatening, so that you can call for help without making the passenger suspicious.
  • Some control rooms have GPS and can track the progress of all vehicles. Drivers have a silent button which they can activate in an emergency, which flags up their vehicle on the controllers screen.

Staying safe

  • Working at night carries the most risk of violence, especially as many passengers will have been drinking. Make sure you are not tired, as you need to be alert at all times.
  • Trust your instinct - you have the right to refuse a passenger if you think they may present a risk.
  • If you have a saloon car, control passenger access to the front. Only open the windows enough to speak to people without them being able to reach in. Only let them sit in the front if you feel comfortable with this.
  • Communication with the passenger is important. Be polite and pleasant.
  • When you travel outside your licensing area, agreeing the fare before you set off can reduce the risks of violence over a fare dispute later, when you may be in an isolated place.
  • Be ready to explain the fare structure to a passenger. Many violent incidents arise from fare disputes.
  • Make eye contact with the passenger when they get in the car. This helps to establish a relationship with the passenger and makes them aware that you could identify them.
  • Explain the route you plan to take if you are going a long way round (for example in order to avoid road works) so as to prevent a dispute over the fare.

If you feel threatened

  • Try to stay calm. Take slow, deep breaths this may help to lessen your anxiety.
  • Be aware of your own actions and how they may be perseved.
  • If you can, drive to a brightly lit, busy place, as these are often covered by CCTV.
  • If you have a purpose built taxi or a saloon car with a screen you are likely to be safer staying in your cab than getting out.
  • Do not attempt to run after a passenger who owes you their fare. Your safety is more important than the money.

If you are attacked

  • Do not try to fight back, it may worsen the assault.
  • Use your horn and lights to attract attention.
  • Contact your control room or call 999 to get help.
  • Gather as much information about the person as you can (e.g. their clothes, accent, distinguising features).

After an incident

  • Write down everything about the incident - A description of the passenger, what they said and did.
  • If you did not call them at the time, report all violent incidents to the police. Be prepared to make a witness statement. It may take time, but it may prevent future violence against yourself or other drivers.
  • When sentencing offenders, courts have been advised to take particularly seriously assaults against people who are providing a public service, especially those who are vulnerable because they work alone at night.
  • A customer failing to pay or 'Bilking' is a criminal offence. Report such incidents to the police and be prepared to make a statement.
  • You may be able to recover the costs of damage to your vehicle through the small claims system.

Ensuring your earnings are fair

50+ hours a week you can make anything from £250 - £400, that is after you pay the office you work for, pay for your car and your insurance. You have to remember that you work for yourself; you are not entitled to holiday pay anymore.

Minicab offices, who shall I work for?

You have to think carefully before deciding which company to work for. They will charge you weekly and these charges vary from one to another. In small company rent can be £70 per week, up to £160 per week in larger ones. Usually, the bigger the company the more runs that will be available to you. There is no guarantee on how many jobs you will get from the office, so at times it can be frustrating to pay £160 in return for little work.

There are specific Bonus Periods, but these fall into holiday seasons that you may not wish to work. Firstly, the summer holidays provide many airport runs, and depending where you work, there can be more tourists and more club/pub work. December is also considered as a busy month with more work and greater tips.

Remember big companies will require newer car. It is common to be refused work for big company with car older than fiveyears. You will find small companies that will allow you to work with six-seven year old car.

Staying safe: guidance for passengers

Travelling by taxi or minicab is generally safe, but it is important to take precautions, such as making sure the vehicle is licensed.

Make sure your taxi or private hire vehicle is legal
A taxi or private hire vehicle (minicab) that is unlicensed is operating illegally and has not gone through the proper checks that licensing authorities enforce.

Do not use a cab if:

The driver appears to be under the influence of alcohol
The driver does not seem to know the local area
The vehicle seems to be too old for use as a cab
The vehicle is in a state of disrepair
Licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles

Safety tips while travelling

Make a note of the number plate and driverís licence number and text them to someone as an extra precaution
If you have a camera phone you could also take a picture of the vehicle
Always sit in the back of the vehicle
Carry your mobile phone in your hand so it is easily accessible

Taxi safety in London

Transport for London (TfL) has initiatives to make taxi travel safer throughout London.

Marshalled ranks

Throughout London, there are several marshalled ranks where the marshal will make sure you get a licensed cab. The marshall will also make sure the driver knows your destination. Marshalled ranks operate only in certain areas and at certain times of night, usually only at weekends.

Transport for London (TfL) runs a Cab Unit which is dedicated to keeping passengers safe by stopping minicab touting and catching drivers who are unlicensed or unsafe. It is vital that you make sure your taxi or minicab is licensed. TfL has an online database which allows you to search for licensed operators.

You can also text íhomeí to 60835 to receive a message listing local licensed operators.

Taxi Fares

Local licensing authorities have the power to set taxi fares for journeys within their area, and most do so. (There is no power to set PHV fares.) These authorities pay particular regard to the needs of the travelling public, noting both what it is reasonable to expect people to pay but also to the need to incentivise taxi drivers so the the service remains available when needed. This often means higher fares at times of higher demand.

Taxi fares are a maximum, and are open to downward negotiation between passenger and driver. It is not good practice to encourage such negotiations at ranks, or for on-street hailings; there would be risks of confusion and security problems. Local licensing authorities usefully make it clear that published fares are a maximum, especially in regards to telephone bookings, where the customer benefits from competition. There is more likely to be a choice of taxi operators for telephone bookings, and there is scope for differentiation of services to the customerís advantage (for example, lower fares off-peak for for pensioners).

It is likely that your local authority will have details of average taxi fairs in your area, and it is useful to familiarise yourself with them.

For example, below are estimated average Taxi Fares within Central London:

Distance Approx Journey Time Monday-Friday 06:00-20:00 Monday-Friday
Every Night 22:00-06:00
1 Mile 5-12 Minutes £4.60-£8.40 £5.00-£8.60 £5.20-£8.60
2 Miles 8-15 Minutes £7.20-£11.20 £7.20-£11.20 £8.00-£12.40
4 Miles 15-30 Minutes £11-£19 £13-£19 £15-£23
6 Miles 20-40 Minutes £17-£28 £19-£28 £23-£34
Between Heathrow and Central London 30-60 Minutes £43-75 £43-75 £43-75

Disabled Passengers

Taxi drivers now have a duty to ensure disabled people are not discriminated against or treated less favourably. In order to meet these new duties, licensing authorities are required to review any practices, policies and procedures that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use their services. Licensed taxi drivers in England and Wales are also under a duty to carry guide, hearing and other prescribed assistance dogs in their taxis without additional charge. Only drivers who have a medical condition that is aggravated by exposure to dogs may apply to their licensing authority for an exemption from the duty on medical grounds.

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