Dec 20, 2010

The Cab Driver Dilemma

I like to think my cursed Libran tendency to always want balance, to see both sides of an issue and weigh the evidence equally, helps me as a journalist. But I think it may make me rubbish as a practical human being.

Perhaps you then, dear reader, can help me with a moral, ethical and philosophical dilemma.

This afternoon, after a media job in which I became aware that Queensland's Attorney-General knows I watched a porno (it's rather hard to explain), I returned to work in a cab.

Now, I don't know how you approach cab rides, but unless engaged in sparkly repartee with the driver, I tend to tune out. I look out of the window, I enjoy the view, I let my mind wander off in all sorts of directions. Particularly easy on days like today in Brisbane, which was at its breezy, summery best after a weekend of rain.

See! Look at that. Beautiful.
So I wasn't really paying attention when my cab driver swerved back into the middle lane of the Story Bridge after attempting to merge left. The vicious horn of the plum-coloured ute just behind us brought an end to my afternoon daydreaming. My cabbie muttered in frustration.

I couldn't honestly tell you who was "at fault" - my cabbie for merging without enough warning; or the ute for barging past.

The journey continued - but no more than 400 metres from my workplace, another incident.

I told the driver to take the right on a roundabout. He was moving slowly, probably only 30 or 40 km/hr. But he entered the roundabout without looking to his right; or if he did, without seeing the white van that was already entering the intersection and heading right for us. I yelped "Look out!" and he hit the brake, just as the van did.

For three seconds, both vehicles remain paused on the roundabout. Then obviously the van must've waived at my cabbie, as he accelerated and got out of the way.

Now, I believe in the second instance that this was in fact a poor driving decision by my cabbie. Had I not yelled out, had he not braked, it was highly likely our cab would have been hit by the van.

So my ethical dilemma is: should I report him to the cab company?

I am torn. On on the one hand, I think cab drivers need to be alert and competent. They have passengers' lives in their hands.

But maybe it was just an innocent mistake? I know I've made similar ones. Perhaps he was just having a bad day?

My cab driver was older - I'd put him in his late 60s. Am I being ageist, saying older drivers are less capable? My cab driver was Indian. Am I being racist, potentially allowing unfair stereotypes to colour my opinion (no pun intended)?

I was not paying full attention. Certainly I cannot swear that the first incident was my cab driver's fault. I am more certain about the second incident, but still, I wasn't paying as much attention as I would have been had I been actually driving.

Will my reporting him be welcomed by the company as a chance to boost training and safety? Or will it end up punishing the driver only if they simply decide to sack him? I don't want to cost someone their job, but perhaps I'm not the only one who's experienced this? What if he is an actual danger, and if I don't report him, the next incident may be worse?

Or am I just overthinking this all, making a mountain out of a molehill?

Ladies and gentlemen - choose your ethics wisely.


  1. Short answer: YES!!

    Longer answer: If you truly think he is a risk to his passengers and others, you should advise the company. They probably wont react in a decisive way on a singular complaint. However, if they have a number of issues that have been raised, they can use the evidence to initiate their company actions.

    Age, gender, race, colour and creed do not have a bearing here, rather the safety of others.

    I would feel no guilt in calling or emailing the cab company. In fact, if I did not, and something untoward occured, that would be hard to deal with.

    If you make a complaint/report, then it is then up to the company to undertake the appropriate actions and afford judicial prudence in dealing with the matter. You cannot own that responsibility as it is solely theirs.

  2. Yes.
    Plus all of the above.


    Yeah report him. He's a danger.

  4. There are no honest mistakes when people's lives hang in the balance. Every moment that you pull onto the road without giving it your full attention you are a potential murderer.

  5. It's possible that he had a bad day... but this is really not an excuse.

    The age can be a reason here. Older peoples responses are not as good as young ones. I think that older drivers are often very dangerous and shouldn't drive.

    The answer: I think you should report him. Yes, maybe he just had a bad day but this is not an excuse to risk your life. Yes, he may loose his job but it's better for him loosing a job than "killing" someone in an accident.

  6. GC: I'm an ex-cabbie. I'll say this - chances are he just had a bad day. Cabbies have, per capita, a much lower accident rate than everyone else. Seriously - that's why we didn't have to wear seat belts while we were carrying passengers when I drove, back in the eighties and early nineties. (The rationale was that drunk, nasty passengers posed more of a danger than accidents, and the Cabbie's Guild actually had good, solid stats to back that up.)

    However, that's not the reason I say "don't report". The main reason is simple: the cab companies didn't give a shit back then, and I can't imagine any reason why they'd be more concerned now. Your report would go into the circular file, and you'd only be wasting your own time.

    I'm sorry to say that, naturally. But, you know - there's better things for you to be doing with your time.

  7. report the incidences but no information on pinning it to the driver, then they get the chance to boost safety training and such but due to the questionability of the incidents, he is not punished?

  8. hmm, thats actually a tough choice. both sides have strong arguements and it could fall either way. So if you cant make a choice, flip a coin.

    I know how ya feel, i think/judge the same way. always a judge on every situation.

  9. I don;t know how things work in your country but i don't think you should report him.It might just have been one of those days for the cabbie man.

  10. Anyone of any age or ethnicity can be a bad driver. Cab drivers I think tend to fall into the same trap as all the rest of us do at work, becoming complacent. He was probably on auto-pilot in his brain. I don't know how it is there but here if I were to report a cab driver, not much would happen. So I would report him and hope that it just puts him back to being more "aware" of whats going on.

  11. His age, race etc. are nothing to do with this situation, and are sure nothing to use aghainst the man (not that i'm saying you ever would) it is the safety of the people he drives around that matters, and that should not be forgotten when thinking about this incident. Yes, he could have been having a bad day, doesn't everyone?, but with a job where lives can be ended by a simple slip up, everything should be done to make sure they don't happen again!

    You should complain, but you don't have to mention any names or discriptions, then the whole company should be made aware of the dangers a tiny slip up can cause!

  12. I'm a libran too and can very well understand indecisiveness we face.As for the incident,i think age factor is important here. As we age our senses get weaker and reaction time increases. In my view you could ask the cab company to get medical fitness test of the concerned driver done. If he is found fit, then his past driving record could be taken as the reference point.A clean record should go in his favour and he should be given another chance. A polite warning should suffice at this stage. Nobody is a perfectionist and we all have bad days. I would also point out here that a cabbie's job is very monotonous and thankless with insufficient income. All these factors build up stress which too could lead to erratic driving behaviour.Everything said,i still feel that the lives of other people on road is equally important, so a polite warning is must. But it would be my thumbs down to a formal complaint.

  13. I think that you should report him. They need to be alert and aware and driving safe at all times. Odds are he probably isn't even going to get written up for it. If nothing else his boss will tell him to pay closer attention to what he is doing. Plus - he works in customer service. As a customer you need to let the company he works for know about the service he is providing whether it is good or bad! FEEDBACK helps tons of businesses to improve their services.

  14. Great informative article. Thank you for sharing. Keep up the great job with this blog.

  15. report him to QLD Transport the cab companies do nothing and dont care, they only care about how many cabs are on the road with their meters running.

    It sounds like this driver needs retraining in his profession especially in the area of road rules.

    I have been taking cabs for 10 years as i dont own a cab and ive had some real dodgy drivers, ive even had drivers try and at extra to the fare.......they get rewarded with a complaint

  16. they only care about how many cabs are on the road with their meters running.