After being involved in a taxi collision due in part to the driver paying more attention to his phone conversation than the street, I tried to remember the last time I jumped in a taxi where the driver wasn’t jabbering on the phone, I couldn’t. Luckily this was a minor crash, the cab seemed to be the only thing damaged after plowing into the back of a stopped car, but it could have been much worse. In a city where cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians are all competing for limited amounts of pavement, I think the “professional” drivers should refrain from the sorts of extended conversations they always seem to be involved in when I am the passenger. As a matter of fact, all drivers would probably be advised to do the same.

taxiA study by the National Safety Counsel demonstrated that people having a conversation on a cell phone “missed twice as many simulated traffic signals as when they were not talking on the cell phone” and “took longer to react to those signals that they did detect”. This study also proved that there was almost no difference between using a hands free phone or holding the phone. This is quite interesting since it seems that all the legislation that has been enacted in this area revolves around holding the phone, hands free devices are normally considered lawful. In light of this evidence, I wonder if it actually should be against the law to talk on a mobile phone regardless of how you actually do it.

I’m no fan of over legislating things, but given the evidence of studies like the one mentioned before, should there be an outright ban on phone use by cabbies? I noticed that the taxicab rider’s bill of rights did not mention anything about this, although, you do have the right to incense free air. One cabbie that I mentioned my concerns to told me that the next time I got in a cab and the guy was using the phone, tell him to shut it off. I have not tried this yet, but I am thinking that the only outcome will be me looking for another cab after liberal amounts of shouting.

While we’re banning things, should this behavior be banned for the general public as well. Cars don’t just hit other cars and immovable objects. In congested areas they have a pretty good chance of hitting something less crash resistant than a car. Perhaps legislation should only effect drivers while they are in congested areas. After all, I think it is probably fairly safe to use your phone when you are on the open highway, it certainly seems safer than when you are in a city. Highway travel generally requires less reactionary type behavior than city driving, so I would say that the chances of talking on the phone when something happens that you must react to quickly are certainly much lower on the highway.

This also makes me wonder why people seem to be so much more distracted when talking on a phone than when talking to people that are sitting in the car with them. Think about it, most automobiles have more than just a driver’s seat, and sometimes there are actually others riding with the driver, many times they actually talk to each other. Has anyone done a study on collisions that might have been prevented if the driver and passenger had not been carrying on a conversation? Maybe talking while the vehicle is in motion should be prohibited as well. Perhaps it isn’t as much of an issue since when conversations take place among people in cars, all of the occupants are in the same situation. They all have some skin in the game so to speak. They know that distracting the driver enough might land them in the hospital. Cell phone conversations aren’t really the same thing. Unless of course both participants are in the same vehicle, but that’s another story altogether. The person at the other end of the phone generally has no idea about the current driving conditions so they really are in to position to say “Look out!” or “Watch the road!” or “You’re a crappy driver!”.

So, what to do about these talkative taxicab drivers? Maybe the next time I am in the back of a cab and the driver is arguing with his girlfriend, I’ll kindly tell him to hang up the phone. After he dumps me on the side of the road, I can lodge a complaint with the TLC. All joking aside, if you have been involved in some sort of incident in a NYC taxi that you feel should be reported, by all means let the TLC know about it, you can even use their online complaint form.

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