Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Are cab drivers better drivers?

This story from the NY Times provides some details about how pervasive cell phone use is by cab drivers, even though any usage has been outlawed for a decade. I can attest that more often than not the cabbie is using the phone while driving. Outside of NYC, where cabs are often dispatched from a central office the drivers usually get their new fares via phone. That's not great, but since too many cities make it illegal to flag down a taxi they have to do something.

But one of the arguments by the taxi drivers in favor of them using cell phones is that cabbies are better drivers than the population at large:
"And they say that as professional drivers, they are less likely to be distracted.

“Private motorists don’t accumulate the kind of knowledge and experience that a professional yellow cab driver does,,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which says it represents 11,000 of the city’s cabbies."

This raises a question I've long had, which is are professional drivers any better than non-professional drivers? I do think that taxi drivers cruising for fares are probably just as distracted (if not more) than if they were on the phone. Taxis get hit all the time swinging u-turns to catch a fare (How many times does that have to happen before 'knowledge' and 'experience' kick in?). But shouldn't taxi drivers and bus drivers be better drivers than everyone else on the road? They do drive around all the time, after all. That's a lot of practice. If they are better drivers then maybe behavioral exceptions could be made to improve productivity or make it a more pleasant job. I'm yet to see any anecdotal or published evidence that they are. Perhaps if the Taxi and Limousine Commission would keep track of accidents we could find out.

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