Taxi drivers struggle to cope with impatient commuters

The China Post news staff

In Taiwan, a country of roughly 15 million mopeds and around 90,000 taxicabs (89,215 as of 2011), it is inevitable that some of them “rub” each other the wrong way, especially in the cities’ congested streets, and even if they rub each other the “right way,” the consequences can still be serious and tragic. These two categories of road users are singled out because it appears that they are more impatient and more often in a rush than other motorists, such that they are more prone to “rubbing incidents,” especially a kind referred to as “dooring crashes” in the U.S. state of Illinois.

A dooring crash happens when a motorcyclist or a moped rider runs smack into a car door that suddenly swings into their path, often because the driver does not look before opening the door. In Taiwan, moped riders, with scant protection, have often ended up seriously injured or even killed in such collisions with taxicabs, leaving the taxi drivers holding the bag. But in Taiwan, the person who does not look before opening the door is, more often than not, the backseat passenger in a taxi. Taiwan taxi drivers are required by law to explicitly warn their passenger to watch if there are any mopeds approaching from behind. Most taxi drivers comply with this requirement to the letter, that is, if they can do it fast enough before the impatient passengers open the door and disappear.

One such accident happened in Tucheng in New Taipei City last year, when a taxi passenger impetuously paid the taxi driver and pushed open the door at a stoplight before the driver could even roll the taxi to the curbside. The door swung outward and hit a moped rider, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down when the dust settled.

Subsequently, the taxi driver was sentenced to seven months behind bars and ordered to pay NT$12 million in damages to the injured woman. An average taxi driver earns around NT$50,000 a month, that is, if he puts in 12 hours a day and takes no more than two days off in a month. It would take the unfortunate man 20 years to make NT$12 million. Or he can sell his assets if he has any. Few taxi drivers are known to be filthy rich.