Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Taxi! Don't mention politics, or it could cost you

By Hung Min-lung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei taxi drivers fond of discussing politics or listening to political radio talk shows in their taxis had better beware.

Taipei City's Department of Transportation has drafted a taxi self-governance statute declaring such behavior inappropriate and stipulating that as long as customers ask the driver to stop and can prove that they did so, a driver persisting in this behavior can be fined between NT$600 and NT$1,200.

Although Article 38 of the Road Traffic Management and Punishment Law (道路交通管理處罰條例) already includes regulations placing restrictions on the behavior of taxi drivers, it only stipulates fines for refusing to pick up a customer or deliberately taking a longer route.

To deal with the problem, the Department of Transportation has drafted the new statute, which includes fine specifications in the hope that it will improve the quality of taxi services once it is passed by the council.

Yeh Chuen-tzu (葉梓銓), a department section chief, said Taipei residents often complain about a lack of service from taxi drivers and their fondness for discussing politics, which can turn the ride into a nightmare when there is a difference of opinion or when customers don't want to discuss such things, adding that such complaints are the reason for the draft statute.

Drivers would not be prohibited from discussing politics or listening to political radio talk shows, but they should respect the wishes of customers who do not want to discuss such topics or ask the driver to switch stations, he added.

Admitting that it would be difficult for customers to prove that a driver refused to abide by the regulations, Yeh expressed the hope that the statute would influence the behavior of drivers.

Wu Ching-fu (吳慶輔), chairman of Taipei City's Association of Professional Taxi Drivers, said sometimes it is the customer who wants to discuss politics, and that the driver may be perceived as impolite if he or she refuses to respond, adding that most drivers will say as little as possible when opinions differ.

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