In New York, having a cab driver yapping away on a Bluetooth device is so commonplace that you might not even be aware that it’s actually illegal. Cabbies aren’t allowed to talk on the phone even on a hands-free device here in the city, but in our experience it’s a constant occurrence. Often it’s such a stealth move that when the driver bursts into speech, we can’t tell if he’s talking to us or not, and we say, “I’m sorry?” — and then later feel too stupid about it to ask him to get off the phone. Either that, or we assume the cab driver is ignoring us as we try to ask him to stop on a particular corner, or change the route he’s going — when really he’s just distracted by listening to someone on the other end of the phone explaining what we can only assume is the entirety of an episode of The Big Bang Theory, scene by scene. By the time you realize what’s going on, it’s too late to ask them to hang up.
Unfortunately, asking a cab driver to get off the phone, which is not only within your rights but something they are legally required to do anyway, just seems rude. It’d be like someone reprimanding you for not waiting for the light to change on an empty street before crossing, or you asking a homeless person to stop drinking on the street corner. Sure, it’s illegal, but it’s also part of what helps people get through the day.
The difference, however, is that a cabbie talking on the phone could be putting your safety on the line. According to the Times, tracking the number of cell-phone-related cab accidents in the city is hard to do, but recent studies have shown that even talking on a hands-free device makes collisions much more likely. Additionally, a reporter for the paper who took cabs around the city all day observed that most drivers who talked on hands-free devices were very polite about getting off the phone when asked. Since it’s difficult for cops to monitor the situation, it’s up to passengers to report incidents — which can result in a $200 fine. So don’t be afraid to ask your driver to just wait to call his friend back when some drunk girl who doesn’t care is in the backseat. He’ll probably do it!
What do you guys do? Do any of you ask them to get off the phone?