Hackney carriage and private hire drivers deal with strangers, often in isolated places and carrying cash.
If you work at night you are likely to have to deal with people who have drunk too much alcohol.
All this means you may be at risk of violence and the following tips may help you stay safe:
If you have a booking:
• Your controller should make sure they have the passenger’s contact details including home address and telephone number
• Controllers should keep a list of locations that have been the source of violence and avoid taking bookings from them
• Controllers should be clear with the passenger about exactly where you are taking them and what the fare will be before you set off
• If accepting a long distance booking, controllers should be clear with the passenger if the driver is going to ask for payment up-front
• If the passenger changes the journey that they booked let them know what the revised fare will be to reduce the risk of a dispute later, when you are far from base and most at risk of violence
• Let the controller know of any change to the booking
If you can, drop off cash during your shift so that you carry as little in your car as you can, or keep your cash hidden from view in a secure box.
Adjustments to your vehicle:
• Some drivers fit a screen to protect them from assault, made from materials that withstand a knife attack or hard body impact
• CCTV cameras may help and can be bought or rented. They can be useful when there is a dispute with a passenger – it is not just your word against theirs. If you intend in installing CCTV in your vehicle you should inform the licensing team in writing
• Fitting a convex mirror that gives you a full view of the rear of your car will help you to see what a passenger directly behind you is doing
Carry with you:
• A mobile phone and charger
• A note pad and pen to record any incidents
• An emergency card with your name, date of birth, blood group, allergies and a contact number for emergencies
• An explanation of the fare structure, so that you can explain it to a passenger who feels that you are over-charging them
How your control room can help you:
• You will need them to get help if you are in trouble
• Have a pre-arranged code word that you can use if a passenger becomes threatening
• Some control rooms have GPS and can track the progress of all vehicles. Drivers have a silent button which they can activate in an emergency, which flags up their vehicle on the controller’s screen
• If working at night make sure you are not tired – you need to be alert at all times
• Trust your instinct – you have the right to refuse a passenger if you think they may present a risk, but make sure you log this incident. It is good practice to inform the licensing team and your controller
• Only open the windows enough to speak to people without them being able to reach in
• Communication with the passenger is important, be polite and pleasant
• Use your radio to tell your controller that you have started your journey, showing your passenger that you are in contact with base
• Explain the route you plan to take if you are going a long way round (for example in order to avoid road works) so as to prevent a dispute over the fare
If you feel threatened:
• Try to stay calm, take slow, deep breaths to reduce your anxiety
• Be aware of your own actions and how they may be seen
• If you can, drive to a brightly lit, busy place as these are often covered by CCTV
• If you have a screen you are likely to be safer staying in your cab than getting out
• Do not attempt to run after a passenger who owes you their fare, your safety is more important than the money
If you are attacked:
• Do not try to fight back – it is likely to make the violence worse, never take the matter into your own hands
• Use your horn and lights to attract attention.
• Contact your control room or call 999 to get help
• Gather as much information about the person as you can, e.g. clothes, appearance, age etc.
After an incident:
• Write down everything about the incident – a description of the passenger, what they said and did
• If you did not call them at the time, report all violent incidents to the police. Be prepared to make a witness statement. It may take time, but it may prevent the violence in the future for you and others
• If your vehicle is vandalised report it to the police.