Katy Guest: The markings on a taxi don't mean a thing

Women in cabs need to trust the driver, not the livery

Share
Related Topics

"If your minicab's not booked, it's just a stranger's car," read the posters with the image of the deserted car park. "Ten sexual assaults are committed by illegal cab drivers in London every month," say the TV ads so scary that they have a 15 certificate. We've all seen the campaigns, which are sponsored by the police. We know not to get into a cab that we didn't pre-book. We look out for the "distinctive licence discs" displayed in the windows.

Our hearts sank, then, when police who were looking for the missing Swindon woman, Sian O'Callaghan, whose body has now been found in Gloucestershire, called for sightings of a green Toyota Avensis "with taxi markings".

Police have become more sensitive about the way that they talk to women about crimes that affect us. They steer clear of telling us that if there's a dangerous rapist on the streets we must all stay at home. They finally seem to understand that it's not women who are to blame. But they find it harder to explain how we should stay safe. They probably haven't had to try finding a cab late at night when it's raining.

A couple of years ago, a scam was discovered whereby drivers were registering their cars as private hire vehicles in order to avoid paying the London congestion charge. For an £82 registration fee, followed by £27 a year, any clever driver could have that all-important Transport for London (TfL) roundel stuck to his windscreens, front and back.

When I called TfL on Friday to ask what's being done about this, I was reassured that "All private hire vehicles must pass an annual inspection... two MOT tests each year [and] a rigorous annual safety check", and that "all individuals applying to become a licensed taxi or private hire driver have to undergo an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau [CRB] check", among other things. But these rigorous checks are separate for driver and car. It seems that any old rapist can buy a TfL sticker.

That doesn't alter the fact that nobody should get into a cab that isn't pre-booked. But it's not always as simple as TfL would like. I've got into a car that I found outside a locked-up local minicab office, whose driver told me, "Of course I work here: I've got the TfL sticker to prove it." I've had a cabbie refuse to confirm the name under which I'd booked and pre-paid. You have to tell me your name," he said, "otherwise any stranger might jump in my cab and get a free lift home."

I asked him why any stranger would want a free lift to my house at 2am, at which point he told me to get out.

I've also called a cab to pick me up in a minor red-light district. The minicab office couldn't tell me my driver's car model, make, or licence number, leaving me to peer into every car with a male driver that slowed down. I found the cab eventually, but I wouldn't recommend this practice.

The London cab firm Addison Lee is particularly successful with women because it sends a text upon booking describing the car in detail and giving the driver's mobile phone number. But Addison Lee is not always available, even in London.

You can receive three registered cab firm numbers by texting "CAB" to 60835, says TfL, which also gives the following advice:

w Never approach a minicab on the street or accept the offer of a ride; the drivers are acting illegally. Only black cabs can pick passengers up on the street.

w Always book, so that there is a record of your journey.

w When your booked cab arrives, check it's for you and sit in the back.It's not always easy, but it is important. And most important of all is to remember that "taxi markings" mean nothing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week