While New York has some of the toughest cell-phone laws in the country, they're hardly enforced.
Eight-year-old Axel Pablo was crossing Lexington Avenue at 112th Street with his mother when a taxi roared around the corner and mowed him down. He was hit so hard he was knocked out of his shoes. Axel died within minutes. An eyewitness said the cab driver was talking on his cell phone.
It was a tragedy that, perhaps, could have been avoided.
New York can be proud of having tough laws forbidding cell phone use by taxi drivers.
But we should be ashamed that these laws, which go back to 1999, are hardly enforced.
Many taxi drivers jabber away all day long, talking to friends or relatives, even as they weave in and out of traffic and speed from one place to another. As The New York Times reported recently, drivers who talk on cell phones are four times more likely to cause an accident than non-talkers.
In the case of Axel Pablo, witnesses said the cabbie at first didn’t know he had hit the child. As he was driving away, he was stopped by a man who ran out of a nearby deli. Witnesses said the driver was still talking on his phone. He was taken away in handcuffs but, later, released without charges.
National statistics show that cell phone use accounts for 2,600 deaths a year. It’s the cause of 300,000 collisions.
If you step into a taxi under present conditions, you are risking your life. I’ve taken cabs where drivers were so distracted it was difficult to get their attention to give them directions.
The death of Axel Pablo should stir City Hall to action. This tragedy should alert us all to the urgent need for the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the NYPD to crack down on the wild cabbies who jeopardize our lives -- and their own.
A crackdown on these dangerous drivers could have a great impact. Cabbies are very sensitive, as are most of us, to having to pay fines. It seems like a no-brainer. If we turn loose just a handful of Taxi and Limousine troops to pose as passengers, we could net many scofflaws -- and the grapevine would pass the word to thousands of cab drivers that the time had come to change their ways.
The head of the Taxis and Limousine Commission, Matthew Daus, thinks things are getting better. He says that summonses have gone down since 2008. Who does the commissioner think he’s kidding?
Perhaps fewer people are complaining because they see the futility of doing so. That doesn’t mean there are fewer violations of the law. Not by a long shot.
This is just a case of sloppy enforcement of rules that should be enforced to save lives and make it a safer city.