If you look more closely at reports of attacks, verbal abuse, sexual acts, threatening behaviour of any kind that takes place in a taxi or PHV, you will find that attacks on drivers far outnumber those on passengers. But the attacks on drivers usually fail to make as big a headline in the press or other media.
With the advent of Uber and other app-based companies the stats have gone up on both sides, but we maintain that licensed vehicles with licensed drivers – who often are the only available mode of transport, especially during nighttime hours - should not have to endure the risks, indignity or bodily harm inflicted on them by passengers.
Why should drivers have to put up with having part of their nose bitten off? Why should their vehicles be kicked, windscreens bashed in, tyres let down or slashed – often only through a drunken rage following a dispute over the fare?
Gender is no bar to the violence either; we now have ‘girl gangs’ attacking drivers in twos and threes, or more. The attacking passengers are across all age ranges, not just kids. And so very many of these attacks are racially motivated.
The trouble is, many of the victims do not even bother trying to report the attack as they believe the police won’t do anything about it. Poor police response times – or the police not turning up at all - make up a good number of complaints by driver victims. At least in Leeds the police are cracking down on attacks against Leeds drivers; their Taxi Watch scheme should net positive results in the near future.
However, the single most effective weapon against attacks on drivers – and passengers as well – is in-car CCTV. Without doubt the statistics prove that if there’s a camera in the car, and the passengers know they’re on camera (and possibly sound), the attack rate reduces dramatically.
City Taxis in Sheffield issued a report on this a few years back: over one Christmas and New Year period their drivers and vehicles endured over 300 incidents of bodily or verbal abuse, vehicle damage, you name it. The company provided CCTV in every vehicle on its fleet; over the following festive season their recorded incidents were down to single figures.
PHTM and the NPHTA want to be instrumental in reducing attacks on drivers; this is why we’ve run a violence feature in the July issue of PHTM and we ask you to read the following pages on CCTV in this edition as well. The NPHTA is going to be trying to source funding to assist with the purchase of CCTV units. We’ve highlighted the problem at national Government level, so that ultimately a national requirement for local licensing authorities would be in place, if not to mandate CCTV in all licensed vehicles, to at least allow and sanction their use, and try to source funding locally.
We’re also going to produce a “zero tolerance” notice that can be displayed inside every licensed vehicle in the country, subject to council approval. You’ve seen these notices in doctors’ surgeries, clinics, taxi licensing offices; we believe that this industry should command and be granted the same privilege of protection and respect in the carrying out of a job which is crucial to public protection: getting passengers where they wish to go in a safe and comfortable vehicle.
That pertains to all our drivers as well. If any PHTM readers wish to comment, and take part in our driver safety campaign, you know where to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com