One of the drivers at my garage got a cell phone ticket yesterday. The rule is strict for cabbies. No hand held phones allowed of course, but, unlike any other vehicle, hands free devices are also verbotten. We can get a ticket just for wearing a bluetooth. The penalty is a $200 fine, three points on our hack license, and a mandatory courtesy class. Now, if we receive six or more points on our license within fifteen months, we get a thirty day suspension. Ten points in the same time period equals revocation. So, just two cell phone tickets equals a suspension. The reasoning behind such a strict rule is that drivers who are talking on the phone are more likely to get into an accident. This reasoning ignores the fact that cabs crash less often than other vehicles.
We get bored out there. Twelve hours driving around gets really tedious. Chatting with passengers helps, but we don't always have a fare, for it is common to be empty for an hour or more at times. We relieve that boredom with the radio and talking on the phone. A quick check of my call log shows that I spent about three hours on the phone yesterday, and I'll probably will do the same today. I chat with my girlfriend, and we have a system worked out. I do not like to be on the phone when I have a fare; it hurts tips, so I hang up whenever I am about to pick up a passenger. I call her back when I am empty again, and we pick up where we left off, if we can remember. We drivers spend a lot of time chatting with each other, sometimes three or four guys tied into one call. We usually discuss the business, stories of the day, difficult fares, big tips, traffic, and where the money is.
But, does the TLC have a point? Is yakking on the phone more dangerous? Does chatting away while wearing a bluetooth really increase the chances of an accident? I don't think so. Cabbies are professionals. I drive fifty, sixty hours a week in perhaps the worst traffic conditions in the country. With that much experience, I have gotten pretty damn good. Most cabbies are. Some aren't of course, but they don't last in the business. We know that we must concentrate on the road, and that the phones takes second place. If I am in a situation that requires extra care or attention, I stop listening to the phone call. I have one buddy who starts speaking his thoughts aloud whenever he has a situation that requires extra care. "Why's this guying slowing down. Is he gonna make a turn from the center lane? He's going left, I'll go around him on the right. Asshole can't drive. OK, what were you saying?" It's annoying, but I know to wait for him to finish his thought and get out of whatever situation he is in. We know what our priorities are.
So, why does the TLC care? Passenger complaints. Many drivers do stay on the phone when they have a fare, and the riding public doesn't like it. So, the TLC created strict rules, and don't want us on the phone at any time. Passengers are actually encouraged to file a complaint against any driver they see on the phone. That is kind of harsh. People, if it bothers you that much, just don't tip. Don't file a complaint. Remember, two tickets equals a thirty day suspension. That is a severe punishment for trying to get through a long, tedious day.