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Fake taxi driver fears

HOLLY HAZEL

October 29, 2013

Do you ever check your taxi driver’s identification card before getting in?

Well maybe you should start.

Department of Transport figures show that 38 Perth passengers have reported suspected fraudulent taxi drivers in the metropolitan area in the past 14 months.

All licensed taxi drivers are required by law to display their taxi identification card with their photograph in full view of passengers.

However, Taxi Council of Western Australia Chief Executive Officer Olwyn Williams says this does not always happen.

“Sometimes a passenger will notice that their taxi driver is not the same person whose photograph is on the ID card,” says Ms Williams whose organisation represents taxi drivers, owners and companies.

“What happens is a licensed taxi driver might get an unlicensed friend to take over some shifts for them.

“This might be because they want to share a workload or to work more hours and therefore make more money.”

Ms Williams says that if the person driving the taxi is not licensed it means that they, the passenger and the car will not be covered by insurance if a road accident occurs.

“However, while some people purposefully take advantage of the system it is important to remember that this is not always the case,” she says.

“Often more than one licensed taxi driver shares a vehicle and it comes down to a simple human error of forgetting to switch the taxi licences over.”

Ms Williams says it is important that if passengers note the driver is not the same person as that pictured in the ID card they write down the taxi number, the driver’s ID number and the date and time of the journey and report it to the Department of Transport.

“The department will then investigate the matter to make sure that all drivers are licensed,” she said.

Ms Williams says the Department of Transport recognises there is a problem with unlicensed drivers and is addressing the issue.

“The department is in the process of issuing newly designed identification cards for licensed taxi drivers,” she says.

“The new cards will look similar to a general driver’s licence and are one of the steps designed to address the problem.”

Metropolitan Perth’s fleet of about 2200 taxis makes about 10 million trips a year and there are almost 6000 licensed drivers.

Taxi driver Stuart Hickson (pictured), who was off duty when interviewed and did not have his own ID with him, says it is extremely unsafe for an unlicensed driver to be at the wheel of a taxi.

“These pretend taxi drivers aren’t considering the potential safety and liability risks of driving unlicensed,” Mr Hickson said.

“I don’t understand why they would risk it.

“Just go and get a proper licence.”

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