Many Chicago residents, passengers and pedestrians alike, complain about perceived dangerous driving by taxi cab drivers. Indeed, there have been two highly-publicized recent fatalities and numerous recent injuries involving area taxis. But are local cabdrivers really more dangerous than other drivers?
Obviously, some cabdrivers are more dangerous than others. Now, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune has found that the most dangerous cabdrivers are rarely held accountable for violating traffic laws.
In fact, Maxwell Gabriel, the Chicago-area taxi driver who recently ran his cab into pedestrian Veronica Andrews while she was crossing Michigan Avenue, had been pulled over by police on 22 separate occasions in the past 3½ years.
The citations issued after these stops included speeding (at times traveling twice the speed limit) and ignoring stop signs – and involved three other crashes which police determined he had caused. He even lost control of his cab during a turn, hitting a light pole and leaving his passenger injured. In total, Gabriel had received 34 tickets since 2008.
In theory, the city of Chicago has a three-strikes policy for city cabbies: three citations within a single year gets a cabbie “flagged,” and his license revoked.
So how did Gabriel remain on the streets long enough to strike a Michigan Avenue pedestrian? Unfortunately, nearly all of his 34 tickets were wiped off his record by Illinois traffic judges. Gabriel was thus able to renew his taxi license each year without problems.
Nor is Gabriel unique. The Tribune’s investigation found that there are many much-cited cabdrivers who have experienced the same phenomenon. In fact, cabdrivers’ tickets are thrown out at a far higher rate that tickets issued to other drivers – often double the average rate. Shockingly, in one case a cabdriver who crashed his car into the back of a police vehicle, leaving an officer hospitalized, had his tickets from the incident dismissed when no officer was present at the hearing.
Some of the most-ticketed cabdrivers have the highest dismissal rates. One driver who recently killed a pedestrian in a Chicago crosswalk had eight of nine recent tickets dismissed. Another, who hit a pedestrian and sent her flying 10 feet (leading to hospitalization), had 16 of 18 recent tickets dismissed.
George Lutfallah, a cabdriver advocate, expressed his belief that cabbies’ high ticket rates were often the result of their many hours on the road, and the higher-than-average ticket dismissal rate was likely attributable to cabdrivers’ aggressive fighting of tickets.
But even Lutfallah, like the car accident lawyers of Passen & Powell, supports tightening enforcement for the worst offenders. He believes that getting the most dangerous drivers off the road will be good for cabbies, and the industry, overall.
Another problem with the city’s three-strikes policy has been lax enforcement. But the city has recently moved to make the rule mandatory: any cabdriver with three or more moving violations in the prior year must be denied a renewal. Our taxi crash attorneys can only hope that this time, enforcement will occur.
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