Taxi drivers set the pace on city streets, and as professional drivers, should be the best, most courteous and safest drivers around. However, as several recent high-profile pedestrian crashes have shown, taxi drivers are often some of the most dangerous drivers. In 1999, the last year for which there are statistics, medallion cab drivers were involved in 16.2% of all crashes involving injury in New York City. Citywide, 4,478 people were injured by taxi drivers, including 1,005 pedestrians and bicyclists, 875 taxi passengers, 772 taxi drivers and 1,687 people in other vehicles.
In January, Transportation Alternatives issued a new report conducted by taxi expert Schaller Consulting on taxicab safety that examined crash records, the number of taxis involved in crashes and driver incomes. T.A.ís study found that there is a strong relationship between taxicab crash rates and driver incomes: Higher driver incomes are linked to lower crash rates. In other words, better-paid taxi drivers are often safer taxi drivers.
There are several reasons why the incidence of taxi crashes is related to driver income. First, taxi drivers who are under greater financial pressure tend to work longer hours, thus becoming more fatigued and more likely to make mistakes that result in crashes. Financial strains may also pressure drivers to exceed the speed limit, run red lights and take other risks.
Driver incomes also affect the overall attractiveness of the job. Higher incomes makes driving a cab more attractive, which in turn produces a more qualified and experienced driver corps. Conversely, studies suggest that lower incomes contribute to rapid turnover among drivers as they seek better-paying jobs.
Paying cab drivers more will make New York City streets safer. T.A. is urging the Taxi and Limousine Commission to increase cab fares by 25% to 45% and pass on a large portion of that increase to cab drivers. Transit riders are paying more, and so should taxi riders, who are typically wealthier than other New Yorkers.
For more information, see www.transalt.org/press/releases/040112safercabbies.html.