Friday, April 28, 2006

More vindication

I have to admit I relish this moment. This one's for all the haters out there who love to generalize and say all cabbies drive like shit. Today's New York Times discusses a study that proves this so wrong. In fact, the numbers demonstrate that, if you're wearing your seatbelt, it's safer to ride in yellow cabs and livery cars than it is to ride in regular cars.


That Wild Taxi Ride Is Safer Than You Think, a Study Says
By THOMAS J. LUECK and JANON FISHER

In a city where almost everyone has a story about zigzagging through traffic in a hair-raising, white-knuckled cab ride, a new traffic safety study may come as a surprise: It finds that taxis are pretty safe.

So are livery cars, according to the study, which is based on state motor vehicle records of accidents and injuries across the city. It concludes that taxi and livery-cab drivers have crash rates one-third lower than drivers of other vehicles.

"This is one of the most important studies we've seen," said Matthew W. Daus, chairman of the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, who said the city had not asked for the analysis by a Brooklyn consulting firm or paid for it, but was nonetheless happy to receive it.

"Our drivers get a bad rap," Mr. Daus said. "Our hats go off to them."

The study was undertaken by Bruce Schaller of Schaller Consulting, a former staff analyst for the taxi commission and New York City Transit who now works as an independent transportation consultant for several cities and transit agencies. He said that he was not paid, that he obtained his state accident records through a Freedom of Information Act request and that he pursued the analysis out of personal interest.

"The public perception is that taxicab and livery drivers are less safe than other drivers in New York City," said Mr. Schaller, citing surveys by New York City Transit showing that riders, when asked to rate "safety from accidents" on a scale of 1 to 10, give private cars a 7.6, and taxis a 5.7.

But Mr. Schaller, pointing to the strict licensing requirements of taxi and livery drivers, their knowledge of the streets and the financial risks they face by driving carelessly, said the results of the study "are not so surprising."

He said the city's own records show that the job longevity of cabbies has steadily increased since the early 1990's, to 9.2 years in 2005 from an average of 5.7 years in 1993. Drivers with more experience tend to drive more skillfully, and more safely, he said.

Some of the findings set off alarm bells about passenger safety. When cabs are involved in accidents the passengers are about twice as likely to suffer serious injuries than the passengers of private cars, the study concluded.

It documented one of the reasons: Relatively few taxi riders wear seat belts, and are under no requirement to do so by state law or city rules. Another reason for the serious injuries is the partitions in taxis, which are designed to protect drivers from passenger attacks, but can cause head and upper body injuries to passengers when the cabs crash or stop suddenly.

And if you are riding a bicycle, watch out. The study concluded that bicycles are about twice as likely to collide with a cab than other vehicles, a danger that experts attribute to the risks of "dooring," in which passengers in parked cabs throw their doors open in front of oncoming bikes.

Still, the overall findings of Mr. Schaller's report are that the safety of taxis and livery cars has improved over the years, and that it compares favorably with other vehicles by several measures.

In a calculation of accident rates per million miles on city streets, it found 4.6 crashes for cabs, 3.7 crashes for livery cars and 6.7 crashes for all vehicles, including public and private conveyances. A livery car was defined as a black car, for-hire livery or limousine carrying fewer than nine passengers.

For a Manhattan resident who takes 100 cab rides a year, Mr. Schaller found, the chance of being injured in a crash is 0.4 percent in 10 years.

On the streets of Manhattan yesterday, the findings provoked a widely varied response from riders and drivers.

"It's not true," said Philip Lee, 42, a delivery driver from Flushing, who drives into Manhattan five days a week and finds the driving habits of cabbies a constant source of irritation.

"They only care about time," he said. "They only care about money. Even at red lights, they cross. They don't care."

But Liz Loughery, a financial executive from Philadelphia who hails cabs several times a week on business trips to Manhattan, said she had no fear.

"The windows were down, and it was fast and furious," she said as she jumped out of an uptown cab yesterday on Eighth Avenue and headed into Pennsylvania Station to catch her train home. "I'm more afraid inside Penn Station."

Charles Bwuah, 50, a cabby from Newark, who has been driving a New York medallion cab for eight years, said he was not at all surprised by the study.

"You see, most people think taxi drivers don't know how to drive," he said. "But that's what they do for a living."


The link is here if you want to read it on the New York Times website.

49 comments:

Troy F. said...

Interesting. I never realized that NYC taxi drivers were so often maligned. I always assumed they were the better drivers and the the real risk comes from the tourists who have no idea how to navigate the NYC streets.

Guess I was right! :->

lilypad said...

You deserve to relish that moment!

I've only been to NYC 3 times, for a grand total of 9 days, and riding in cabs is just part of the NYC experience! I'd never presume to drive in that city - I completely trust the cab drivers and find many of them extremely interesting and fun to talk to.

Next time I'm there, I hope I get your cab!

Cheers,
K

Jmoney said...

I don't mind a fast ride.. there's only been once or twice where I felt the cabbie was driving dangerously enough to warrant a seatbelt. But are cab/livery drivers less likely to report a minor accident?

threetoedsloth said...

I'd assume that cab drivers would be safer because they know where they're going, unlike confused motorists from out of town.

Though a couple of weeks ago I did see a cab almost hit a woman on a bike. She banged on his window and screamed at him, and he just drove away.

Anonymous said...

Accident rates are not in direct relation with safety. I drive in this city -- if one in 10 cab drivers actually shows their turns when switching lanes (or even turning for that matter, sometimes from the second or third lane away from the corner) -- then it was a good day. I think that cabbies cause more accidents then they are involved in. The vibe I get from cabbies is "I don't care how dangerously I drive -- I know the other guy will always back down when I cut them off" -- and thus it is entirely possible cabbies don't get into accidents -- they cause them. Not that I would say the rest of the city drives much better, but we are a "see-do" society, so if the guy driving the big yellow car can act like an ass, so will the guy driving behind him.

jMon said...

mELISSA, DO yOU WEAR YOUR SEATBELT?

stephanie_in_mass said...

There is a difference of knowing where you are going and the holy shit where am I going? I never doubted a second that taxi drivers rock or least the sane one's who can speak good English! Keep up the great driving MP!!!

Dr. Cribbit said...

To anyone how think cabbies suck at driving: You have been owned. Have a dice day.

Grant Barrett said...

"Dooring" is also known as a door prize.

Dr. Cribbit said...

By the way, You've kinda sorta forced my to pull my own diary thing. :P

Here's the blog if you want to see it. This is not a site ad, so if you don't really want to click it, don't.

Anonymous said...

Yeah everybody can say that cabbies drive like shit, but if you look at the exteriors of them they aren't as banged up as your average family mini-van or wagon. Being originally from Philly and driving a bit in Baltimore, I've found most cabbies are just as careful as any professional driver, sorry truckers, but its true. Just think about how many cabbies you see driving and multitasking like woman doing their make-up or gabbing on cellphones, or teens channel hopping radio stations. Both hands on the wheel people, please!
Anyway, good article, makes a great point. Robert from Delaware

Anonymous said...

this study doesnt mean a damn thing, just because theyre involved in fewer accidents doesnt mean that they dont drive like deranged crazy maniacs cutting you off and stopping dangerously short to pick up a fare all the time, i love your blog, but you have to stop lying to yourself, ny cabbies drive like pure shit.

dana said...

Hello MP, I lived in Vegas for many years and the cabbies out there are nuts! However i always made it to my destination safe and on time. The only ones i didn't like were the ones who thought you were a tourist and would take ridiculous routes to get me where i needed to be, all i had to do was let them know i lived there..... Some would get mad like they were insulted, but really they were just pissed cause they couldn't rip me off. Well safe driving and safe trip to Cali :)
Peace

Anonymous said...

I saw this in the NY Post as well. Not all cabbies are bad drivers. It's an unfortunate stereotype.

Anonymous said...

That said, the greatest thrill ride I've ever been on was a cab trip from the Metropolitan to Herald Square via the park. " Die Hard III " came close to duplicating it. It ended as we rocketed between two converging buses without an inch to spare at about 60 mph. If Six Flags could duplicate it, they'd have it made.

fairscape said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This is unrelated to your story, however I will be making a trip to NYC to see Late night with Conan Obrien! For a small town girl like myself, we do not have cabs here. What is an appropriate tip? How do you determine it? Is it just like dining out? I never like to tip under, no matter how rude the person is. They to, have to make a living.

Dennis said...

im from connecticut but was recently in time square to see joe satriani (good show bye the way)but i've noticed,in my opinion anyway that anyone driving for a living has ten times the hazards that no study can give justice.At least in my opinion truck drivers,and 99% of taxi drivers are the best drivers on the road in the city is alittle diffrent when you drive a taxi (not easier)but from my own experiance one the highways truckdrivers and also livery and cabbies have to compeat needlessly with pure and utter assholes for no reason. I see people who will endanger not only the lives of themselves but countless others for what and it seem these same assholes gun for you guys like its their right.Your out there to make a living you drive so much to me it makes you a good drier and all you guys are itsthe people needlessly trying to challengeing you and i know you've seen it so hopefully these studies take this into account

kickstand said...

I commuted by bicycle from Brooklyn to Chelsea for about five years. I always told people I felt the professional drivers (cabs, delivery vans, etc) were relatively safe, predictable, skilled drivers. The most dangerous drivers were the BMW's and Mercedes's with Connecticut plates.

Andy said...

May I point out how FEW taxies in NYC or otherwise have accessible seatbelts?

Oh, Miss! said...

that was pretty interesting and just proves how much people have these "pre concieved notions" about certain workgroups.

For instance flight attendants being uneducated service workers. Not so! many have PHD's and are doing this for fun- or don't want to do those 9 to 5 stuff.

Tom said...

Cheers to that, huh?

Grant said...

Does't seem that long ago that you'd get into a cab and here Elmo telling you to buckle up. Glad those days are gone. NYC cabbies are great--my experience riding in cabs and driving my own car in the city w/cabs all around. (Feel positive about cab drivers in DC, Seattle, London, Florence too). I live in Boston now--I actively dislike Boston cab drivers, who cut you off and honk and offer disrespect in geneal to other drivers, and if you're in a cab will take you the extra long route to your destination. Ugh

Chuck said...

i've never been to new york city and probably won't ever get the chance, i would most likely go on overload because of everything there is to experience, evrytime i see a picture or something on tv that shows the traffic there, the sea of yellow out numbers the other cars at least 3 to 1. with numbers like that it's easy to point the finger, you're bound to get a bad rap. keep drivin' and keep postin'. enjoy your trip. http://chuckslodown.blogspot.com

Girl Watcher said...

Well enough said commercial drivers do go through safety training and if they practice that training it is only natural that they would be involved in fewer collisions. All commercial should be familiar with All Good Kids Love Milk.

Aim high in steering. Get the big picture. Keep your eyes moving. Leave yourself an out. Make sure they see you.

Girl Watcher said...

Hey Ken I think you are right the Mercedes, BMW drivers should be pretty afflunent and being wealthy and lead to self importance which shows up in their driving.

Anonymous said...

Only a day after that was released a cab hit a truck that was trying to park forcing it on to the sidewalk by 49th and Madison. Later when he reentered traffic he hit a few more vehicles. Heres the link. http://ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=5&aid=58993

Not saying they aren't safe, just saying this happens. Also I was on a bus going up 6th ave and a cab tried to cut off the bus but the cab got hit instead.

Anonymous said...

I hope your book will do so well that you can quit driving those stinking yellow cabs and get the hell out of that god forsaken city. Have a good one.

Lady Hope said...

The general view toward the Taxi Drivers that if you give them enough money, they can fly to reach where you want….
Yet, this is unfair look, they are work so hard for their living like any one else…
imagine if they are not there, imagine if your private car broke down suddenly, you will need a taxi if there is no one to pick you up….

Dear M.P. is a real example of how hard to be Taxi Driver and dealing daily with countless different people.

Anonymous said...

I live in Philly, but I enjoy visiting N.Y.... I have no fear of Cab's in the city. Try going for a ride on a SPETA bus in Philly(that is the local name for mass transit in the Philly area). Now that is taking a risk. I swear all the bus driver's are from Jersey.

EverJack1 said...

Enjoyed the pros and cons from the comments, but besides M.P.s quoted article, I didn't learn much... :o(

EverJack1

Francesco said...

Your blog is absolutely fabulous and it's wonderful to get a different take on living in NYC, since I basically spend all my time studying and living in one small part of it. So far, I've been very lucky in always getting a safe cab driver when needed. There was one time when I crossed an intersection on foot and a head-on collision involving a taxi occured about 20 feet behind me. I was lucky not to get hit by the flying metal.

Hope that I'll get to catch a ride with you sometime... you never know. NYC can be smaller than we think. Anyway, keep up the great writing!

Anonymous said...

When you drop off a passenger, do you tell them to look behind for bicyclists before opening the door? Or do you always stop right next to the curb?
It would be great if you could remind your passengers to look before they open the door, and could save a life.

luke said...

Thanks for another good post hack. Always good to hear your take on things.

Greg said...

“Small town girl going to a taping of Late Night” wrote:
[W]e do not have cabs here. What is an appropriate tip? How do you determine it? Is it just like dining out?

According to what I've learned, it is like dining out: minimum 15% of what the meter says. But I've read that in New York City, diners should leave a minimum of 20% because of the high cost of living here. I apply the same rule of thumb to tipping cabbies. I'll tip below the minimum, though, if I know the cabbie didn't take a direct route to my destination in order to run up the fare.

Do you know who Conan O'Brien's guests will be on the show you'll be in the audience for?

Andy wrote:
May I point out how FEW taxies in NYC or otherwise have accessible seatbelts?

That hasn't been my experience in recent years. (But then, I rarely take taxis.) By law, they're supposed to have working seat belts.

Lady Hope:
You were the one who was interested in the new songs about impeaching Bush, right? Well, here is an item on brooklynvegan.com (a blog about music and, sometimes, veganism) about Neil Young's new album. There, you can find a link to a Web page which will let you listen to the new album over the WWW.

freddybeach cabby said...

Being a cab driver, I make a terrible passenger! But I always feel comfortable when I'm in a cab.Given the amount of miles we put on in the run of a year and the amount of accidents, I would say thats a pretty good average.

R2K said...

Uh, its probably safer because you always sit in the back when in a cab.

Cabs often push the limits of driving laws, they creep through reds, they get into accidents often, and they speed constantly. That isnt to say other cars, like limos, dont do the same. And even normal drivers do this. But to say that cab drivers dont often push it is bs, and I Dont care what any study has to say. Lets just say that on several occasions I have been forced to leave mid trip because the driver was not safe. One time, I had to jump out because the driver got into a serious accident by jumping a stop sign. And just recently, I saw two yellows collide because they were both trying to pick up the same woman. Lucky for them, she was not crushed.

Now that doesnt make you a bad driver...

R2K

Anonymous said...

I think that makes it even more aggravating that every crosswalk in the city is blocked by a cab either picking someone up, dropping someone off, or just revving his or her engine and generally being an a-hole.

Girl Watcher said...

Glad I don't have to drive around NYC everyday! Just going through in the tractor trailers I drove for awhile was bad enough.

Anonymous said...

Yes that is also true, the cabs are constantly picking people up from outer lanes.

Katy said...

Great article, its nice to read positive things about cabbies in the paper.

Anonymous said...

good driving indeed

Bishop bashing said...

well there you go.....Amazing I thought taxi drivers were the worst but hay ho live and learn....

Cool blog by the way ..... Bet you ain't heard that before !!!! :0)

Keep safe driver of NY..

Dead Disney said...

Cab drivers all over the world are maligned day after day...



www.backpackersdistillery.blogspot.com

Lady Hope said...

Greg said...

Lady Hope:
You were the one who was interested in the new songs about impeaching Bush, right? Well, here is an item on brooklynvegan.com (a blog about music and, sometimes, veganism) about Neil Young's new album. There, you can find a link to a Web page which will let you listen to the new album over the WWW.

Oh...Thank you Dear, i will visit it now.

You are my Hero;)

Cheetarah1980 said...

I've never been killed by a cabbie so I can't complain.

Anonymous said...

unless you ride a bicycle - then you can kiss your ass goodbye. there isn't a SINGLE DAY on my ride to work where a cabbie doesn't pull some stupid aggressive and DANGEROUS shit (cutting me off to pull right in front of me and deposit or pick up a fare - yes in the bike lane, cutting in front of the traffic in the bike lane to take a turn when they don't have the right of way, crazy speeding on narrow crosstown streets - just to get to the next red light, the list goes on and on). with my life in the balance, i take it personal. safe in their armor, they could give a flying fuck.

and to all those people who say that out of towners are the greatest danger - why do you think people get so reckless when they drive in NYC? they are trying to compete with the completely insane shit that the cabbies are pulling. you can't even take one lane in this city before a cabbie cuts you off, forcing you to slam on your brakes. i think out of towners are in a permanent state of panic when they have to drive NYC streets, which increases the chance that they will do stupid shit, since they assume it is the norm here.

don't let statistics blind you to the bald face reality you see in the streets every day. i would *hope* professional drivers have less accidents than people who are not on the road 10 hours a day. and i would also hope that they show the barest consideration for human life and sanity outside of their cab or limo, but apparently that is too much to ask of so many of these "professionals".

Limousine said...

It's always sad to hear about car accidents. But unfortunately in big cities it's very common problem. If all people drive carefully and being on the road think about driving, it could help to decrease accidents rate.

Ajlouny said...

It's impossible to generalize about anything because it's never across the board in any situation. But the track record of traffic accidents involving a livery cab is common. This is not to say that all livery cabs are wreckless on the road.