Passengers are being warned about the dangers of travelling in illegal taxis which is making the most of the surging demand in towns and cities at weekends.
The warning comes after a council in Wales saw a rise in the number of unlicensed public hire and private hire taxis descending on Merthyr Tydfil at the weekends – when people are flocking to pubs, bars and restaurants.
While the huge numbers of people out enjoying themselves means there might be delays in getting a taxi, illegal operators are exploiting the demand for cabs – and are making large profits by doing so.
While it might be tempting to jump into the nearest vehicle purporting to be a cab, there are huge dangers in getting into an unlicensed taxi. The first is that passengers have no idea who is behind the wheel. They have not been vetted for safeguarding to ensure they are fit and proper to be operating as a taxi driver, especially if they are transporting vulnerable passengers such as women on their own or people who have had too much to drink.
Passengers also have no way of knowing whether the driver has a valid driving licence or the standard of their driving. There is also no way of knowing that the vehicle they are using is safe, let alone that it meets the rigorous checks carried out on Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles in the UK.
It is also important that to know that they will not have valid taxi insurance, which is required by law to operate as a taxi driver. This means that in the event of a collision or claim, it is the innocent victims who will be out of pocket, especially if they are seriously injured and require significant medical treatment in future.
In order to operate a taxi, the driver must hold a full UK licence, operate and maintain a suitable vehicle which is regularly serviced and inspected, be licenced with the local council and hold black cab insurance or private hire insurance.
This way, in the event of a crash, passengers are reassured that they are in a safe vehicle and everything is being done to protect them, whereas illegal taxi drivers are only out to exploit them.
Following concerns in Merthyr Tydfil, the council is warning the public to be vigilant and make sure the taxi they are using is genuine – it must either be booked through a taxi base or via an app, or, if it is a black cab, displays the correct public hire signs and insignia.
Whether they are private hire taxis or Hackney cabs, all vehicles being used for hire and reward must be licensed by the council and have licensing details on their rear number plates. Black cabs must have a ‘taxi’ roof light as well as a meter with rates and terms displayed.
Cllr Michelle Symonds, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Crime and Disorder, told TaxiPoint: “The purpose of taxi licensing is to protect the public, and we would like to remind residents and visitors of the risks of getting into these vehicles.
“Drivers have direct responsibility for the safety of passengers and significant control over passengers – passengers who may be alone and/or vulnerable.
“Members of the public could be putting themselves in danger by using unlicensed vehicles/drivers and we would urge anyone to think twice before getting in an unlicensed vehicle.”
As well as encouraging the public to only travel in licensed taxis, taxi drivers should report anyone they suspect of operating a taxi illegally and help keep everyone safe on the roads.
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