According to a study done by the Department of Labor, it was found that opposed to the average worker Taxi Drivers are 30 times more likely to be killed on the job. While shocking, it is understandable why taxi drivers are targeted. Known for carrying cash earned from their fares, taxi drivers are vulnerable to thieves who see them as an easy target.
But now, thanks to the combine efforts of the New York Taxi Worker Alliance—or the NYTWA for short—and the New York City Council a new law can soon be enacted that would protect taxi drivers from potential danger.
Last week, the NYC Council passed the Taxi Driver Protection Act, it is a new measure that would hopefully protect taxi drivers from potential assaults since the bill will permit taxis and liveries to contain signs which will read: Assaulting a Taxi or Livery Driver is Punishable up to 25 years in prison.
Currently, such warning signs appear on New York City buses and subway carts protecting transit workers who man them.
“We hope this will bring us one step closer to a safe workplace for taxi and livery drivers who labor 60+ hour weeks in complete isolation,” said Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of NYTWA, describing the hardworking and vulnerable working livelihood of taxi drivers.
Desai also went on to add how there can be additional safety for taxi drivers, “The law should also provide reason for the District Attorneys’ offices and NYPD to collaborate on a dedicated investigations and prosecution unit. The level of seriousness has to be established at the top to trickle down to the streets.”
During a press conference on October 21st, the NYTWA gathered on the steps of City Hall along with members of the NYC Council to speak out in a joint venture of support for getting the bill passed. At the press conference, fellow taxi driver, co-founder of the NYTWA, and its proposer and key pusher of the bill, Mamnun Ul Haq shared his reason for fighting for the bill.
During the event, Ul Haq shared how one night after picking up a fare his life was placed in danger when the passenger pulled out a knife and through the open partition stabbed him in the back. Able to close the partition, separating his assaulter from the him, and managing to drive a few blocks away to escape the fleeing culprit, Ul Haq recalls how the idea to propose a sign-measure came to him as he recovered in a hospital.
“It doesn’t mean the crime will go down to zero. But at least if anyone gets into the cab and sees a sign saying: ‘Assaulting a taxi driver is punishable by up to 25 years in prison’, the person will think twice,” said Ul Haq, believing the presence of the signs will deter possibly criminals from doing anything violent.
“What most New Yorkers don’t realize is that [Taxi Drivers] is amongst the most dangerous jobs in the country. Taxi and livery drivers are 20-30 times more likely to suffer violence on the job than those in other occupations,” said City Council Member Rory Lancman, who backs the bill becoming a law.
Under state law, anyone who physically assaults a taxi or livery driver can find themselves possibly facing a felony assault conviction. If convicted for assaulting a taxi or livery driver, the culprit can expect to serve up to five years for committing the crime.
Right now, the bill currently awaits a signature by Mayor Bill de Blasio in order for it to be implemented into a law that would hopefully safeguard the thousands of cab and livery drivers in this city.