I was very disturbed to read about a fatal accident involving a Yellow Medallion Taxi at the corner of 69th Street and First Avenue in the 9-18-12 edition of the NY POST.
If one is to believe the newspaper report, a pedestrian was crossing against the light, while the cabbie was beeping and speeding up to make it through a yellow light. Safety last.
Subsequent comments by the POST’s irregular selection of readers and embittered shut-ins covered the entire gamut of issues and non-issues, with several readers offering their nasty, clichéd assessment of smelly, indifferent, overly-aggressive third world types making the world a little bit uglier one cab ride at a time. Never you mind how many hard working, decent brothers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Africa and the Caribbean slug it out 12 hours a day, six-even-seven shifts a week, week-in and week-out, to scratch out a living.
However, like so many clichés and sources of prejudice, one must acknowledge at least some grain of truth in the equation.
From my experience as a driver, it has very little to do with whether or not you wear a turban, hail from South Asia, or call your deity Allah.
It has way more to with the industry’s predilection for encouraging a regular influx of INEXPERIENCED DRIVERS, who shortly join the legions of desperate men slugging out over the course of too many shifts where they are unable to come home with so much as a hundred dollars, let alone fifty. Such desperation causes the small-minded among us to do some very venal, petty things, such as ringing up toll charges where none are warranted, stealing a few bucks at a time. I am regularly used to making more money per fare in tips than these dimwits stole per ride, which is neither here nor there. Nevertheless, it occurs to me that many inexperienced drivers, in addition to a paucity of social skills, not only have no idea how to relate to customers, but drive too damn aggressively and haven’t a clue how to drive safely and effectively—and how this directly impacts one’s ability TO MAKE MONEY.
Which is the whole idea, yes?
In addition to snide comments about South Asian brothers, there was an interesting debate between commentators on the NY POST web site, much of which centered around who was at fault; who had the right of way—who was right and who was wrong.
Wrong? Right? Are you freaking kidding me—how about drivers accepting responsibility, because in my experience, more often than not, if there is an accident, the taxi driver could very well have prevented it.
I can already hear the outraged voices of cab drivers protesting about how bad bus drivers and truck drivers are; how reckless delivery men and recreational bicyclists are; how unconscious and unaware far too many pedestrians are, chatting away on their cell phones, lah-dee-dah, not looking both ways. True all true, however, how can I best put it in? Tough…this is our job, and as we often make up the majority of vehicles on the road, OUR REPONSIBILITY.
Never mind wrong or right? How about courteous, cautious driving. So you speed up to make the yellow light at 69th, but catch the red light at 70th. What exactly have you gained? One lousy block at best. At worst? Well, this incident is a perfect example of at worst, where irresponsible, pointless aggression behind the wheel leads to an innocent pedestrian’s critical injuries, as passers-by gather to lift the cab off of her smashed body, alas, too late.
Here’s where drivers, particularly the rookies, need to take a reality check. As a cab driver you ARE YOUR BROTHER’S KEEPER, like it or not. Like it or not, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers, as well as sundry pedestrians and bicyclists. Even if the pedestrians are crossing against the light; even if the bicyclists are not observing all the traffic laws, the cab driver is nevertheless RESPONSIBLE. That’s part of the job description–looking out for your brothers and sisters, even when they are not looking out for themselves.
That accident at 69th street and First Avenue certainly got me thinking. Too many cabbies don’t understand their function and how to make money, and these dumb motherfuckers make the rest of look like schmucks.
First of all, why run a yellow light? Why, when you can stop safely, be a good defensive driver, and allow the meter to click another 0.50 for waiting time. Ding Dong—HELLO! It is not as though you are trying to run up the meter, though some passengers might interpret it that way, but they are in a distinct minority. Yes, you tally a little more money in waiting time, and additionally you do not discomfort passengers by bouncing them about in the back seat, nor do endanger pedestrians or bicyclists.
It’s called a sense of awareness. Is any experienced driver actually shocked when a bicyclist comes down the wrong way on a one-way street? Are you taken by surprise when pedestrians cross intersections against the light while gabbing away on their cellular devices? If so, then the driver is a MORON. All of this must be factored into how you protect your customers and your taxi cab itself from danger. True, sometimes you can’t do anything about the unconsciousness of others, such as when a car rear ends you at a corner where you are trying to get a credit card transaction approved with your hazard lights plainly blinking for all the world to see.
However, more often than not, the cab driver who REACTS gets into trouble. Whereas, the cab driver who reads the road, maintains awareness—and who ANTICIPATES—makes money and avoids potential tragedy.
Those cab drivers who are new to this “profession” need to train themselves to anticipate; they need to remain calm; they need to learn not challenge every other driver, cabbie, bicyclist and pedestrian. Let them go, take a deep breath, and remember, it is not the cabbie who drives the fastest, but the cabbie who MAKES TIME, who MAKES MONEY. Running lights is for suckers. Relax…relax as best you can, and do not react to each and every provocation, imagined or real.
Safety last? No, SAFETY FIRST.