• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:48am
NewsHong Kong

You talking to me? Taxi drivers face phone ban

Union chief says multiple mobiles strapped to dashboards distract drivers and put lives at risk

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 10:26am

Taxi drivers should be banned from having more than two mobile phones on their dashboards, according to a cabbies' union.

The Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee said the handsets limited the view of the road, and answering phones and sending text messages distracted drivers. Its chairman Kwan Yuk-wah said he had seen one taxi driver with 12 phones strapped to his dashboard.

Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is against the law, and a police spokesman said that drivers who endanger others by handling a phone or touch-screen device may be committing an offence.

Kwan said: "Being distracted while driving and blocked windscreens could lead to traffic accidents. It poses a danger not only to the drivers themselves, but also to their passengers and other road users."

He believed 90 per cent of cabbies with multiple phones strapped to the dashboard were from "unofficial discount gangs" which accept fares below the meter rate.

Kwan estimates these drivers make up about 30 per cent of the 18,000 licensed taxi drivers.

"Their phones are for business - its their customer hotlines," he said. "But they have to answer phones or read texts, write down bookings and then communicate with their team members while driving.

"We have received a lot of complaints from terrified passengers where taxis were zigzagging across the road while drivers took phone bookings."

Kwan recommended a restriction on phones in a meeting between the Transport Department and taxi unions last month and said he raised the issue amid increasing public concern and a number of traffic accidents involving "discount cabs".

Taxi drivers interviewed by the Post yesterday welcomed the idea.

Lau Wai-wah said: "Those drivers put the safety of passengers at risk. I think it is unacceptable for taxi drivers to have more than two mobile phones in their vehicle."

Fellow cabbie Tam Tak-ming said: "Those drivers use their phones to take bookings and divert the bookings to other cabbies. I don't think they can be paying adequate attention to the traffic."

He added: "Some of my passengers have told me they don't dare get into those taxis."

A police source said officers would be looking into the problem. "We will collect information on how many taxi drivers do this and how many phones each driver has," the source said.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said it had been looking at how motorists used mobile phones while driving and it would be conducting a review in due time. However, at this stage, there were no plans to amend the ordinances governing the issue, he added.



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

All I ask of a cab is a competent driver and an absence of used tissues in the door handle. Its quite rare that both occur together.
Deal or No Deal
With regular road traffic accidents involving taxi's and light mini buses; how many fatalities does it take for the 'Transport & Housing Bureau' to take notice. Typical government department being obsessed with bureaucracy and micro management. The law should cover all drivers including taxi's. There should be no allowance for taxi's for 2 mobile devices. Take note, taxi's in Singapore and London are businesses too which operate efficiently without the aid of a mobile dashboard office!
What is the connection between transportation and housing?
This government only reacts depending on current issue bandwagon...always too late,
for example,
-fire hazard staircases in buildings
-sub sub divided flats
-illegal structures (high officials to poor little villager)
Get a grip, less talk and more decisive action.
I booked an "unofficial discount gang" taxi to the airport last month. Not again. On the 3-lane highway he was texting new numbers into his phone, acting as an operator fielding jobs for other taxi drivers and generally not looking at the road. Genuinely terrifying!
On the bright side, you save an extra 20%! It gets lonely on the road you know......
I hate to make this generalization, although many are decent people, but this job is a magnet for many triads, ex-convicts, hustlers and any bottom feeders you can think of. The drivers from the Kowloon side are more shady.
Whenever I take any of my female friends to catch a cab, I will first decipher and oust those with multiple phones, unless if she has a death wish, then those that roll down the windows and about to ask you your destination and occasionally I would greet them with a birdie ! And I will stay away from those with heavy tattoos on their necks and arms. Sorry I'm old school and it's not a sin to be vigilant.
What can we expect from HK taxi drivers?...............they are at the lowest level of society.......these are the least educated guys coming from slums............let's not have too much expectations of them.
Hong Kong taxis are shameful - drivers are rude, distracted, always on one of their many phones, and the damn radio is on too. The customer seems to be a burden. Really awful. compare to singapore taxis and hong kong should be ashamed.
All that bad service and people will still ride it why? Because it's one of the cheapest v.s. median income.
And I think they behave badly because they know that.
That point about cheap is true in all countries, including singapore. so, that is not an adequate answer. it is lack of oversight - in singapore for instance they fear that the customers can report to some authority. here there is no fear. This is land of fearless and harmful taxi drivers !!
I agree. The standard of Hong Kong taxis is pretty low. Most drivers are uncivil, and their cabs are grubby. It is obvious that the Transport Department fails to ensue even basic standards are maintained.




SCMP.com Account