CYCLE OF RAGE: Two Bronx Council Members Oppose Cab Safety

The taxi industry. Photo: WCBS
The taxi industry. Photo: WCBS

SB Donation NYC header 2Finally, two City Council Members are standing up to defend a truly oppressed group of New Yorkers: very bad taxi drivers.

OK, that was sarcastic, but here are the facts: Bronx Council Members Ruben Diaz Sr. and Fernando Cabrera are trying to protect bad cabbies with a bill that would repeal a Taxi and Limousine Commission enforcement effort called the Critical Driver Program — which allows the TLC to revoke or suspend taxi drivers’ licenses if they accrue a certain number of DMV violation points in too short a time.

If a cabbie gets six DMV points within 15 months, the TLC can suspend his or her license for 30 days. And if a driver gets 10 points within 15 months, the license can be revoked. (Under the point system, speeding 11 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour above the speed limit is worth four points; texting earns you five points; blowing through a Stop sign is three points, etc.)

If the Critical Driver Program is repealed as Diaz and Cabrera want, the TLC would only have its far-weaker Persistent Violators Program as its enforcement tool against bad cabbies. The Persistent Violators Program is weaker because it only covers cab-specific violations written by TLC officers. Currently, those PVP points can be added to DMV points so that bad drivers are taken off the road faster. Intro 1249 would only allow the TLC to go after a cab driver with lots of DMV points only if the driver had also received a Persistent Violator Program point.

And here’s why that’s a problem: there are only about 200 TLC officers writing tickets, compared to tens of thousands of cops and traffic enforcement agents writing tickets.

Council Members Fernando Cabrera (left) and Ruben Diaz Sr.
Council Members Fernando Cabrera (left) and Ruben Diaz Sr.

Thanks to the NYPD, 9,049 cab drivers racked up enough DMV points to be subject to Critical Driver Program oversight last year — with 3,307 of them taken off the roads, at least temporarily. But only 149 drivers were issued Persistent Violator summonses in the same year, with just 83 of them taken off the road, according to TLC stats.

Cabrera told Streetsblog late Friday that his bill was written because cab drivers have been complaining that when they get a moving violation ticket from a cop, the TLC can also use that ticket against them — like if a cab driver gets a summons for blowing through a Stop sign, he or she will not only get DMV points that could put him or her in Critical Driver Program, but also get TLC points as part of the Persistent Violator Program.

“Our intention is trying avoid the duplication,” Cabrera said.

I told Cabrera that the bill made no sense because the TLC should be able to issue additional points if a driver gets a serious moving violation. That’s how the TLC holds its licensed drivers to a higher standard than regular drivers who don’t ferry passengers.

Cabrera said he hoped negotiations would resolve the issues before a hearing on the bill that’s scheduled for Monday morning. But that didn’t seem likely based on what TLC told me on Friday afternoon:

“This bill, as currently written, represents a step backward in safety,” TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said. “Safety must always be the foremost goal, and … a law that would gut the Critical Driver program would deprive our city of a very important tool.”

Bottom line: Cabrera and Diaz (who didn’t call me back) want to make it harder for bad cab drivers to lose their licenses because they think the current enforcement system is unfair.

So why not put forward something that’s truly fair: Cab drivers get to keep their licenses as long as they keep driving safely.

Gersh Kuntzman is Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog. When he gets angry, he writes the Cycle of Rage column. They’re archived here.

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