Hooray: Taxi Driver Cell Phone Crackdown Goes Into Effect Today

Cell phones, iPods, cameras, even hands-free devices are banned

By Brian Thompson
|  Friday, Jan 29, 2010  |  Updated 12:36 PM EDT
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Hooray: Taxi Driver Cell Phone Crackdown Goes Into Effect Today

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Put down the phone, dude.

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It's the law. Cabbies are no longer allowed to use any type of electronic device – cell phones, iPods, cameras, even hands-free devices – while driving their charges around the city

"What about if your kid is sick," worried taxi driver Emanuel Conille about the new rule aimed at distracted driving on the streets of New York.

The new crackdown, implemented Thursday, is unlike any in the nation, and covers just about every kind of portable electronic device that you can think of, perhaps with the exception of a chip implanted in your head.

For months now, even hands-free cell phones have been banned for taxi, limo and van drivers. But the new rule extends the prohibition to Bluetooth devices, as well as PDA's in your hand, and electronic games.

"It's a good rule," said longtime taxi driver Guerry Altnor, who added that professional drivers have to be cautious for a living. "You got a lot of things to do. If you're talking on the phone you can't" keep your eyes on the road, Altnor said.

The penalties from the TLC are a lot stiffer than in the past. There used to be a five-strike rule before your license was revoked. Now it's three violations within a 15-month period and you're walking if you're caught talking.

"I know if they catch me it's gonna be tough on me; it isn't worth it," said taxi driver Conille, who has resigned his Bluetooth device in his pocket.

The new TLC rule makes clear that the ban includes iPods and portable game systems as well. The only exception seems to be if you're making a true emergency 911 call, perhaps in pursuit of a reckless driver while in your taxi, for example.

The stringent regulations also cover drivers of limos, black cars, commuter vans and paratransit vehicles as well.

"The time has come to put an end to the abuse of distracted driving by taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers," said TLC Chairman Matthew Daus in a statement.

As for the rest of us who aren't covered by the ban, pay attention to taxi driver James Mack.

"Being on a cell phone and making a turn is very hazardous, very dangerous because you can't focus, the mind can't do both," Mack said.

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