Public transport - Taxi drivers
Work-related violence case studies
There are around 23 000 licensed taxi drivers in London driving 'black cabs'.
Black cab drivers are mobile workers who pick up customers hailing them in the street or waiting at designated taxi ranks. The customers pay the driver at the end of the journey. Drivers who are members of organisations such as Radio Taxis also do account work or get jobs through telephone or internet bookings. Money does not change hands if an account is used.
The Society of Professional Licensed Taxi Drivers (SPLT) is a trade association with around 1600 members, all of whom are self-employed licensed London taxi drivers. Radio Taxis is a co-operative with around 3000 members and works closely with SPLT. All members are self-employed and contribute financially to Radio Taxis in return for radio equipment, Radio Taxi jobs and other benefits.
- Carrying money in the taxi (and the public's perception that the driver is carrying money).
- Carrying mobile phones in the taxi. These can be targets for robbery.
- Drunk and aggressive customers.
- Certain higher risk geographical areas or trouble spots.
- Working late at night or early in the morning.
- Cab driver leaving the cab, for example in the case of non-payment of a fare.
Examples of incidents
- Armed robberies, involving weapons such as knives, CF spray and syringes.
- Racial and verbal abuse from customers.
- Drunken passengers becoming aggressive and verbally abusive over fare disputes.
- Recently, in an extreme case, an older driver was found beaten to death, lying in the gutter at the side of his cab. The assailant has not yet been found.
Training and information
Prevention is key: The message to drivers is 'do not put yourself in a situation where you might be at risk'. Training is more effective if done in an informal way.
Key training messages:
- Be polite. Good customer service is essential. Make and maintain eye contact.
- Act in a non-confrontational manner.
- Do not try to fight back if threatened.
- Try not to leave the taxi cab. Drivers are safer in their own space where they can call for assistance if an incident occurs.
- Refuse a job if you feel unsafe.
- Do not volunteer personal information to passengers. Drivers should not mention that they are finishing a shift or going home.
Provision of advice: advice is provided about known trouble spots, unsafe areas and safe rest places.
Education and information sharing: the education of drivers and information sharing continues through trade magazines, newsletters and websites.
Liaison with police: SPLT and Radio Taxis develop and maintain good links with local crime prevention officers. They can provide information and training to drivers and alert them of known potentially violent people and locations. Drivers also inform the police about local incidents which they may witness as they drive around.
Communication and camaraderie between drivers: although most drivers are self-employed, there is a culture of open communication between them. They share information and advice about violence issues and help one another if an incident occurs or if a cab breaks down.
Work environment and equipment
Door handles: modify door handles so they only open from the inside.
Deadlocks: activate deadlocks only in known violent areas.
CCTV: install in the cab along with visible signs to act as a deterrent.
Safety film: use to cover glass windows.
Decoy money bag: store the real money elsewhere.
Lockable sliding screens: fit these between the customer and driver. Ensure that openings in screens used for paying fares are not in a direct line with the driver's head; this prevents attacks around the driver's neck.
Emergency fuel-stop button: drivers can use this to simulate problems with the taxi which makes it easier to get aggressive or troublesome passengers to leave the cab.
Equip cabs with a radio: this enables drivers to maintain contact with other drivers and the control room and to request advice or assistance.
Panic alarms: fit these in taxi cabs and activate to alert other taxi drivers.
PC screens: fit these for better communication. They display 'regular' messages from the control room about new jobs; information from police about potential troublemakers or incidents in the area; and sound an alert if there is an emergency call.
Account work: this is where companies or individuals set up an account with Radio Taxis. No physical money changes hands between customer and driver.
Avoid certain geographical locations: avoid driving to or through known trouble spots.
Avoid dead-ends: Before dropping off a passenger, drivers are advised to park so that they can make a 'quick getaway' if needed.
Global Positioning System (GPS): SPLT and Radio Taxis are experimenting with GPS in cabs and mobile phones.
Money 'drop off' points: these are being considered so that drivers can deposit fares during a shift.
Less successful measures
Martial art training: a type of martial art self-defence training was tried. But drivers developed a false sense of security and acted more aggressively. It was therefore decided that non-confrontational techniques were more effective, posing less risk to personal safety.
The benefits and the costs
- Self-employed drivers who actively engage in violence prevention and management can continue to work and remain healthy and safe.
- Preventive measures can increase drivers' confidence, especially if they have been victims of violence or verbal abuse.
- Knowing about the support network among other drivers makes individuals feel safer and more confident.
- Several drivers have contacted Radio Taxis and SPLT after receiving training or advice to thank them and say they feel safer and better able to deal with incidents.
- Having a positive and friendly attitude towards customers and a non-confrontational attitude does not cost anything.
- Some of the measures, for example CCTV, can be expensive.