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April 2012

Hello, everyone.   I hope this column finds you all well.  Let me begin with wishes for the speedy recovery of taxi driver Sajjid Matin, who was struck and severely injured by an alleged drunk driver several weeks ago.  Mr. Matin, we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to you and your family at this difficult time, and wish you a full and speedy recovery.

The latest news on our efforts to bring quality taxicab service to the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan is that we have published a comprehensive package of proposed rules and regulations that would, if approved, codify the state law into our rulebooks.  These rules are available for all to see on our Web site at www.nyc.gov/taxi, and we strongly encourage you to do take some time to review them.

 The TLC will also hold several public hearings, at which interested parties are invited to submit comments and testimony, at 9:00 a.m. on March 22, 2012.  This hearing will be held in the TLC’s public hearing room at 33 Beaver Street on the 19th floor.  As some may not read this column in time to attend the first hearing, we’ll hold a second one at 9:00 a.m. on April 19, 2012.  This hearing will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, New York.

It’s important to us to keep our licensees in the know about Street Hail Livery rules and licensing plans, and so the TLC will also be conducting three information sessions where all interested drivers, vehicle owners, and base owners can come and get answers to all their questions and concerns.

It will be a bit of a road show for the TLC, with both day and evening sessions scheduled in Queens (March 16 from noon to 2 p.m. at Elmhurst Hospital, 79-01 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373), Brooklyn (March 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Woodhull Hospital, 760 Broadway Brooklyn, New York 11206) and the Bronx (April 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lincoln Hospital, 234 East 149th Street, New York, NY 10451).  If you have even the most basic question about this history-making plan, I strongly encourage you to come to one or more of the sessions.

Speaking of road shows, the New York Auto Show will be at the Jacob Javits Center (11th Avenue between 34th and 40th Streets) from April 6th through the 15th, and the star of the show will unquestionably be the Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow.  The Auto Show is always a great way to spend the day, but a chance to see the future of the taxi industry will make it downright spectacular!

On other important matters, within a few days of my writing this column, the Daily News had a very welcome cover story about the dangers taxi passengers face when they choose not to wear their seat belts.  As tabloid stories so often are, the powerful stories from taxi accident victims were accompanied by the frankly terrifying image of a young woman with track-mark scars across her face.  The reporter fairly represented the fact that, in the last year for which statistics are available, there were 4,093 accidents, putting the number in context as only a very small percentage of the almost 500,000 rides that take place each day on average.  She also highlighted the fact that, as a part of the Bloomberg Administration’s Taxi of Tomorrow initiative, the TLC insisted that the new NV200 taxicab be crash-tested to the highest federal standards WITH the partition installed as a fundamental part of the vehicle’s design.  While the taxicabs of today are, of course, crash-tested, the partition is an after-market modification.  By testing the vehicle with the partition for the first time ever, we are assured of a superior outcome and a safer, better product.

While the article did not mention this specifically, this issue is very high up on the TLC’s list of concerns, to the extent that we include a non-mutable seat belt reminder in every TPEP introductory message, and recently produced a video public service announcement to increase seat belt awareness and use (check it out -- http://www.nyc.gov/html/tlc/media/video/tlc_taxibelt_revised_hd.wmv).

But here’s the thing….yes, the number of accidents is relatively small, and the number of those injured in those accidents is drastically smaller; and yes, the most recent accident study put a spotlight on the fact that taxi and for-hire drivers are the safest on the road, per million miles driven, but there’s more we can do to drive those numbers ever lower.  We can – and should – continue to remind passengers that buckling up is the smart thing to do with videos and other things, of course, but in my view, there’s a real opportunity in the one-on-one relationship between a professional driver and his or her passenger.  What I’m asking you to do is pretty simple, but it could also be monumentally important – so here goes -- in that first moment when a passenger is getting comfortable in the backseat, when you’re confirming the destination and establishing that all-important rapport, take a moment to turn around and say, “I care about your safety – please buckle your seat belt.”  Now THAT’S customer service!

Until next time, take care and be well!

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