October 28, 2014
By Stephanie West
New York, NY – New York City council members and taxi advocates extolled the passage of Council Member Rory Lancman's Taxi & Livery Driver Protection Act. “Taxi and livery drivers make our economy move, yet they risk their lives each and every time they pick up a fare,” said Councilman Rory Lancman.
“Drivers need to know that we take their safety seriously, and every person stepping into a taxi or livery cab needs to know that assaulting the driver will have serious consequences."
The bill requires each vehicle to post a sign, warning: "ATTENTION: Assaulting a Taxi or Livery Driver is Punishable by up to 25 Years in Prison.” Taxi workers are up to twenty-five times more likely to be murdered on the job than those of other occupations, and face high rates of assault. The bill has the support of taxi and livery cab drivers, industry leaders and advocacy organization.
The legislation follows a brutal history of aggression against taxi operators: offenses range from acts of disrespect such as spitting or cursing, to refusal to pay a fare, to outright violence. In the last year, NYTWA has reported drivers being struck, car jacked, blinded, choked, stabbed and killed. “There is an urgency for the city to show that it stands with the drivers and will protect them,” said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.
“This campaign was born in my hospital room, when I was recovering from being stabbed with a hunting knife by a passenger,” said Mamnun Ul Haq, a NYTWA co-founder and victim of workplace assault. “So many of my fellow drivers lost their blood or are permanently injured, even died, from attacks while just doing our job of serving the public. We need real protection. Maybe the man who stabbed me in Brooklyn Heights would have thought twice if he knew the city valued my safety,” said Mr. Ul Haq.
“Our taxi drivers are 25 times more likely to be the victim of homicide on the job than the average worker,” said Transportation Committee Chair Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Bad actors will undoubtedly be deterred by posting the penalty for assault in taxi and livery cars.”