Taxi drivers stick together to ensure their own safety

DUBAI — Taxi drivers in the Emirates are now banking on the age-old formula to ward off dangers. Stick together!

By Joy Sengupta

Published: Thu 19 Apr 2007, 8:39 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:42 AM

Worried by the reported increased incidents of attack on them, they are now making it a point to keep in touch with their colleagues, on mobile, while driving to secluded destinations, especially during the night time.

According to recent reports, some cab drivers have been assaulted, and even murdered, by miscreants posing as passengers.

As a result, many of the taxi drivers are keenly following the “stick together” formula. It works simply. A cab driver alerts one of his colleagues whenever the passenger tells him to go a distant place, or when he senses any foul play. His friend, in turn, keeps tabs on him by calling him five to 10 times during the journey. They may even criss-cross, at an agreed place, to confirm things are fine.

Mohammed Abdul, who works for the Arabian Taxi company, said: “There have been many instances of taxi drivers being badly beaten up, and even killed. Many of these instances go unreported. Though the police are helping us, we too have found out a way to protect ourselves.”

Abdul added: “Whenever I move towards a secluded place like Jebel Ali, I call up my friend who is also a cab driver. I ask him to either give me a call every five to 10 minutes, or drive down to a meeting point along the same route and wait for me. We have specifically told each other to sense danger if we don’t pick up two successive phone calls. So we constantly stay in touch with each other. The other drivers, too, have made pairs, and work in the same way.”

According to the taxi drivers, the police have given them a card with a toll free telephone number, following the recent spate of incidents.

“They have asked us to call up whenever we sense danger. When we call at the number, the police can automatically locate the area we are driving in. This is a good move. But we trust our colleagues. Whenever a passenger asks us to drive towards a destination that is far away or secluded, the first thing we do is to call up our colleague and inform him,” said one of them.

S. Shasheedharan, another driver with the National Taxi said, “if the partner is free, we decide upon a meeting point along the route. After that, he follows me. If he too is busy with a passenger, we keep in touch on the mobile.”

Some of the drivers pointed out they had stopped taking more than two passengers after 10pm.

“After 10pm, we don’t generally agree to take more than two passengers. However, we have no problem if it’s a family. There have been instances when suspicious looking passengers have cut their journey short after finding me talking to my partner time and again.”

Shasheedharan added: “We face risks on the road. We need to tackle the risks on ourselves.”

It may be noted that the Public Transport Corporation at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) had earlier this year announced plans to develop a satellite system to monitor the entire fleet of taxis and their movement.

Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, the CEO of Public Transport Corporation, said the satellite system would facilitate better time management of taxis. “It will also help to keep an eye on them and, thus prevent traffic congestions,” he explained.

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