The New York Times has an article out today discussing how cabbies have ignored the cell phone ban in New York City, which forbids taxi drivers to speak on cell phones, even with hands-free devices. Here in the District, we have a hands-free driving law that went into effect five years ago, in July 2004, and it bans motorists from speaking on the phone without a hands-free device except in emergency situations. I’ve noticed that taxi drivers are some of the worst offenders in our city– it seems 50/50 that I’ll be getting into a cab with a driver who has a cell phone in his hand. The cell phone ban is rarely enforced in New York, and that seems to be the case here in DC as well.
Taxi drivers claim that they are better equipped to handle a cell phone and a vehicle because they are professional drivers, and that having a cell phone breaks up the monotony of 12-hour shifts. But when a driver is distracted by a phone, he’s more likely to miss traffic signals or drive erratically (try this fun Times game to see how difficult it really is to use a phone and drive at the same time). What to do if your taxi driver is talking on the phone? You can always ask him to hang up, or get out of the cab if it is affecting his driving. If you’d like to log a complaint, take down his name and vehicle license tag (which should be displayed prominently), and report it to the DC Taxicab Commission.