Dodgy taxi driver puts his foot in it

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 1995, 12:00am

PASSENGERS should keep an eye on fidgety taxi drivers - that tapping foot could be making a hot-wired meter tick over faster, police said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Transport Department has revealed plans to install receipt-printing machines in taxis to make drivers more accountable.

The police warning came after an undercover officer discovered a driver's jiggling leg was moving a wire which sent an electrical impulse to the meter to inflate the fare.

Arrests for interfering with meters have more than doubled in the past six months.

'The taxi drivers are preying on tourists and not somebody familiar with the roads of Hong Kong,' Superintendent Sidney Fung Kwok-on said.

The driver, 36, was arrested on Tuesday for interfering with a meter after picking up the undercover policeman at the Macau ferry terminal.

The meter had a wire running under a mat which allegedly caused the fare to jump when the driver jiggled his leg.

Drivers have also been found to interfere with meters by twiddling knobs on the car stereo, which sends electrical impulses to increase fares, or using the button on their radio microphones.

Transport Department chief motor vehicle examiner David Chan Yim-sang said yesterday electronic printers for issuing receipts - showing the fare, distance travelled and waiting time - were being tried.

But their introduction would have to be approved by the Legislative Council and would involve consulting the taxi industry.

Anti-tampering devices have been installed in one-third of the territory's 18,000 taxis since 1992. The devices emit beeping noises and reset the fare to $13 for an hour for the benefit of the passenger before shutting down.

'If the driver does some monkey business he won't make any money for an hour,' Mr Chan said.

There were 647 meter offences in the second half this year so far, compared with 246 in the first six months while prosecutions of drivers rose to 1,304 from 660.