Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taxi Driving 101

Originally uploaded by r o d r i g o
Tickets are one of the ultimate factors in driving with such regularity. With time and experience, a taxi driver eventually knows where every odd rule and regulation exists and when and where these specific rules are enforced. The streets are infected with signs prohibiting turns during specific times, on specific days, and even for specific vehicles. The difficulty lies in reading the specifics which are of course in small print. By the time one finally reads the entire sign they are already at the intersection. 

My 3rd ticket of my big yellow driving career, was for making the left on 7th Avenue from 34th Street, where lefts were prohibited everyday except for buses, but I thought the sign said except Sunday. The officer told me the day was Saturday, I needed a calendar badly.

The police liked me a lot during my 1st year of driving big yellow:

In my first week I got a double ticket after picking up a passenger at the 7th Avenue entrance of Penn Station and trying to take her back uptown. Following the advice of taxi school, I wanted to take her to Madison Avenue as directly as possible, so I ever so carefully signaled with my arm, crossed all four or five lanes and made the left at 32nd Street, where the police have a daily ticketing party. I let my passenger out telling her she’d be better off taking another taxi. I got one ticket for improper lane change, and another for something similar, which totaled to five points. That left me with only 1 point left before my license would be suspended, A fine gift from the NYPD to congratulate me on becoming one of New York’s craziest. It took an awful long time for them to give me the tickets, and once that was done, I waited a little longer; I thought I should get my hack license back, and I was really worried that my license was confiscated or something. It turned out that these clever busy bees forgot to return my license to me. When I got my hack license returned I continued with my day slowly and safely, but not without a new debt to the City of New York of about 300 dollars.

By the grace of God and/or our traffic points system, and some legal help, I never did get my license suspended; despite getting more tickets. Here is how it works if you care to follow:

Within an 18 month span if you get 6 points on your license you will have your licenses suspended. The suspension lasts 6 months I believe, but if during a period of 18 months you get 10 points, your license will be revoked. If you are due for a license renewal during the same period in which your licenses are suspended, than you might as well surrender to the lords of taxi and say good riddance. On every ticket there is a box to check for guilty and one for not guilty, and on all but one I checked not guilty. The city then sets up a hearing date and notifies you to come down to Rector Street and testify at a certain time and day. Preceding the hearing, you can go down to Rector Street and postpone your date for later. During all of this stall time you are not gaining points on your license as you are innocent until proven guilty. The garage helped me push back my hearing dates even further, and so did a lawyer I hired. The lawyer fee is about 100 bucks per ticket, I know, I know, but we have to remember the points are the enemy, not the fees. The first hearing I attended was for that left turn, my argument was that I couldn’t see the sign due to the bus in front of me blocking the overhead sign. The hearing was quicker than my breakfast; I lost. After that case, I turned to the traffic lawyer who handled every ticket after. Unfortunately she only got one ticket dismissed: her specialty, the 32nd street turn, my 1st, or, 2nd ticket.

With careful management of postponing traffic hearings and taking defensive driving courses, I managed to always stay below the 6 point mark. Every 9 months you can take a defensive driving course, which will take 2 points off your point accruement, although they word it so that they don’t have to take those points off, but they do. The city didn’t let me off that easy though. Despite having an adequate license, I then got charged an assessment fee of around 300 dollars by the State, because my record, which doesn’t erase points, is at around 10 or 12.

I was on the borderline of that suspension though for my 1st full year or 2, and it was that fear that finally taught me how to avoid getting tickets. While my license was due for renewal, some computer (or person) at the Department of Motor Vehicles didn't take the 2 points off and rendered  my drivers license suspended for a few days before I straightened that out.

There are many lessons on how to drive big yellow in New York City, here are 4 key points to remember:

-Avoid Penn-Station, particularly the main entrance at 7th Avenue. 
  • When dropping off passengers and approaching the station from 6th Avenue, first ask if they’d prefer getting dropped off at 31st Street as it may be faster. 
  • If they’d rather get dropped off right in front, then take 33rd Street, but when it becomes clear that it would be faster for your fare to walk to the station, ask them if they are in a hurry, and advise them it’d be faster for them to walk from there. 
  • When approaching on 7th Avenue from the north, turn the meter off when you pass the taxi line, then after passing the main entrance, pull to the curbside after the intersection. If you are stuck in traffic and your passengers are rushing to get out, tell them you will let them off after the light, and that you don’t want to get a ticket for dropping off in the middle of the street. 
-Avoid Grand Central Station; make your drop-offs quick and your pick-ups quicker, and safe of course. 
  • Do not pick-up fares when you are within sight of the taxi line unless you are at the front of the taxi line itself.
-At intersections, be weary of pedestrians while turning, this is a quick ticket for an unsympathetic officer. 
  • The police with the badges and the guns are the ones that give you tickets. 
  • The traffic police, who help traffic flow at congested intersections, actually encourage aggressive driving, and view cabbies as role models for other drivers. Traffic police want traffic to flow, while the officers tend to slow it down.
-There are 20,000 police officers in New York City, while there are probably 10, maybe 20 Taxi and Limousine Commission officers. Therefore your priority should be to follow the rules of the road. The T&LC’s laws are less important. 


King of New York Hacks said...

yeah 101, i'm doing the same stuff, 3rd hearing is this month for a 2 pointer turning onto 34th from 7th my first day of driving,,,one of the drivers in my garage calls 'em maintenance fees....i call it bullshit harassment .

NYC taxi photo said...

yep, there are so many things worse. In germany they only give tickets for bad driving behavior.

these no turning signs are putting a small band aid on a larger issue of congestion, which should be addressed with turning lanes and traffic lights with pedestrian cycles and turning arrows.

NYC taxi photo said...

actually if your up to the 3rd hearing, you might get those dreaded 6 points.

have you talked to a traffic lawyer about getting further postponement, i believe you can get each ticket postponed up to 3 times. then while it is being postponed, if you haven't taken a defensive driving class too recently, the lawyer should know how long the limit is, then you could take that and save your self a suspension maybe.