Philadelphia Taxicab Accidents

November 18, 2015

Taxi Accidents, Unlicensed Operators Raise Safety Concerns

In Philadelphia, and in parts of New Jersey, thousands of taxis traverse the streets, 24 hours a day. Car accidents involving taxis account for just a fraction of traffic injuries and fatalities, but when a serious car crash occurs, questions inevitably arise about whether taxis are as safe as passengers assume them to be.

In September, a taxi struck two pedestrians in downtown Philadelphia. Both died after being thrown 100 feet by the impact. Witnesses said the driver appeared to be traveling at least 25 to 50 mph faster than the posted speed limit. In May, famous Princeton mathematician John Nash and his wife, Alicia Nash, died when the driver of the taxi they were riding in attempted to pass a vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike and lost control of the car, hitting a guardrail and another car. To date, no charges have been filed in either of these crashes.

Taxi drivers in Philadelphia and New Jersey undergo training and must pass a test in order to drive a cab, and regulatory oversight helps ensure that drivers are responsible and their vehicles are in good condition. Even so, licensed cabbies occasionally make serious driving errors. Now, taxi companies and lawmakers are wondering why two car services new to the area – UberX and Lyft – aren’t subject to the same regulations as taxis. Are these passenger carriers safe, if they have no official oversight?

Regulatory Authority

State regulations for taxi drivers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey define requirements for training, licensing, liability insurance, and other factors designed to ensure taxis are safe. For example, Pennsylvania code § 1021.12 states taxi drivers may not provide service beyond the 14th consecutive hour of coming on duty; and after a 14-hour shift, a driver must take an 8-hour break before returning to service.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority oversees city taxis, requiring operators to purchase a medallion that authorizes them to accept fares in the city. Currently, UberX and Lyft are permitted to operate in the state of Pennsylvania, but not in Philadelphia. Regardless, UberX and Lyft have been operating in the city, without medallions, since late 2014.

Lack of Oversight

UberX and Lyft have similar business models: People who own a four-door car, are at least 21 years old and meet a few other basic requirements may sign up to be a driver. Passengers arrange and pay for rides online, and drivers pick up the passengers at a specified destination.

Cabbies in New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City, and other cities say these unregulated services are hurting their ability to make a living. Taxi drivers in cities where UberX and Lyft operate say the newcomers enjoy an unfair advantage, because they don’t have to pay the licensing fees taxi drivers pay. They’re also not subject to state laws that specify minimum insurance coverage for passenger carriers. That could change, though.

In October, Pennsylvania lawmakers were considering a bill that would allow UberX, Lyft, and similar services to operate statewide, while providing some legal protections for cabbies, such as preventing UberX from picking up passengers at the airport.

Without oversight, independent drivers who use their own cars may not be adequately prepared to be safe while driving. Furthermore, they may not have the insurance coverage necessary to cover passenger injuries, should an accident occur. If trained professional taxi drivers occasionally make serious mistakes that lead to crashes, one has to wonder what will happen if UberX and Lyft drivers continue to operate with no training or applicable regulations.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that a negligent or unlicensed driver is responsible for your injuries, a taxi accident lawyer at Wapner Newman can help. For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless car accident victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-529-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.