You probably don't even notice when you get into a cab and the driver is breezily chatting away with his wife in Queens or his cousin in Dhaka, but he could be putting your life in danger. According to a survey by the National Highway Transportation Board, drivers who talk on the phone are four times as likely to cause a car crash. But good luck trying to get your cell phone-happy driver to put down his phone and focus on getting you to your destination in one piece.
It's been against the law for cab drivers to chat and drive at the same time for a decade now, reports today's Times, a law that—contrary to what many people seem to think—does not provide an exemption for drivers who use hands-free headsets.
The city hasn't had the easiest time enforcing the law. The authorities issued 232 summonses for cell phone use in yellow cabs during the first six months of 2009, which comes out to about one ticket for every 517,241 cab rides. And riders who ask cabbies to quit talking on the phone? They often don't get a very favorable response from drivers, not surprisingly. A psychology professor at NYU who routinely requests that drivers save the chit-chat for later says that in her experience one in five drivers "do not take it well."
If you're annoyed that your driver is talking on the phone from the moment you get in the cab to the moment you get out, you may be best served by imposing a bit of economic punishment: Try not giving him a tip. "When I talk all the time, the passengers get angry," one cabbie tells the Times. "They don't give tips."
Or just ignore it altogether and be grateful that cabbies haven't figured out a way (yet!) to rig their cabs so they can watch Taxi TV in the front seat.