Driving Around Town

Proposed TLC rules may have you kissing your hack license goodbye!

Once you thought it was safe to go into the water, now you discover there are sharks everywhere.

So it is with the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which has proposed new draconian critical driver rules. In essence, they are proposing to review any 15-month period to determine whether you have too many points on your driver's license.

How does this work?

The current rule states that if you have 6 points in a 15-month period, your hack license will be suspended for 30 days. If you have 10 points or more in a 15-month period, your hack license will be revoked. The current review period is 15 months back from your last point conviction.

What is the difference between the proposed rule and the old one?

The TLC will go back into each driver's history to determine whether there is ANY time period during which you tipped the scales. This will be true even if you have had a clean driver's license for the past 5 years. For example, if you had 8 points in 2005 and a clean record to date, your hack license could be suspended for 30 days.

The next proposed rule covers the receipt of multiple summonses. Under the old rule, only the ticket with the highest points would be assessed against your hack license. Under the new rule all tickets would count. For example, if you received 2 tickets at the same time and you were convicted of a 4 point speed and a 4 point following too closely, under the old rule only 4 points would count. Under the new rule, all 8 points would count.

Is this fair?

NO. Taxi drivers work 6 to 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours per day. This adds up to between 60 and 84 hours a week. The average person drives between 5 and 20 hours each week. How many points can the average person receive without a suspension? In New York City, it's up to the judge, but generally 11. Is this equitable? No. You drive about 5 times more than the average driver on the road and are permitted approximately half the points. In essence, your standard is about 10 times higher than the average motorist.

Who at the TLC decides which records should be checked?

It appears to be a clerk, someone with no legal background.

Are taxi drivers entitled to a hearing at the TLC if they receive a summons for a violation of the Critical Driver Rules?

Yes. You are entitled to a hearing before a judge who is an attorney.

Does this judge look at the underlying facts involved in the summons?

In a manner of speaking, they do. The judge will count the points the driver has received in the 15-month period.

Do the judges actually look at the specific infractions to determine if the driver's action constituted dangerous driving?

No, they do not. For example, Sam had 5 points on his driver's license and he received a stop sign ticket at 3 A.M. in a quiet section of town. Sam made a rolling stop, no headlights were approaching, so he continued through the stop line. Unfortunately for Sam, there was an officer at the corner. As Sam did not come to a complete stop, he is technically guilty of failing to stop at a stop sign. This is a 3 point violation. George was found guilty of speeding through the 1st Avenue tunnel. In the tunnel there are no pedestrians, no cross streets, and no signs indicating that the speed limit is 30 m.p.h. He was driving 52 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. unposted zone. This is a 6 point summons. In both situations, the driver's committed the infractions; however, do they deserve to be out of work for 30 days? Absolutely not.

Just because you received the ticket, does that mean that you actually committed the infraction?

Police officers make mistakes. About 25 years ago, I was driving down the Major Deegan and wasn't paying attention. There was a cop on the side of the road. I looked at my speedometer and realized that I was speeding. He looked away and made a notation on some paperwork and I changed lanes and slowed down. He stopped the vehicle in front of me that was going slowly. I felt a little guilty. He really should have stopped me. I thought about pulling over and explaining this to the police officer. Reality kicked in. If I had stopped, both of us would have received tickets.

After this incident, I became painfully aware that officers make all types of mistakes. This is one of the reasons that I encourage drivers to fight each summons.

Isn't the Critical Driver Program puzzling?

The New York City Traffic Violations Bureau judges are attorneys. They hear both sides of the case and make a decision. Sometimes cases are dismissed and some motorists are found guilty. The judge hears all the facts. If the judge believes that the driver is a danger on the road, he can suspend his license for 2 points or in the alternative he could suspend the license at 11 or 12 points. It's up to the judge.

As the Traffic Violations Bureau judge is in the best position to determine whether or not a driver should be off the road, why does the TLC find the Critical Driver Program necessary?

After all, in the 1960s the New York State Legislature removed jurisdiction over traffic offenses from the Criminal courts in New York City and made it part of the DMV. The reason for this shift was that the criminal calendars were overflowing and justice was cranking to a halt. The TLC should not be second guessing the New York State Legislature's decision.

Is help on the way?

Industry leaders convinced the TLC to postpone their decision from October 21st until November 18th in order for the TLC commissioners to reconsider their proposed changes to the critical driver rules.

The following list consists of some of the groups that have met with TLC Commissioner Yassky:

David Pollack, the executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, along with David Beier, general counsel who also submitted written comment Vincent Sapone, president of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners and Richard Kay the organization's treasurer Ronald Sherman, president of the Metropolitan Taxi Board of Trade, Jean Barrett, Executive Director MTBOT, Joseph Giannetto, Director of Business Development MTBOT, Peter Mazer, general counsel and Michael Waloz from the public relations firm of Connelly and McLaughlin. Mr. Mazer, also submitted written comments on behalf of the MTBOT to the TLC urging them "to defer consideration of these rule amendments until the Commission has fully considered the impact these rule amendments will have on its licensed drivers, thousands of whom could lose their licenses if these rule amendments are enacted."

I apologize to any individual or organization that is aiding in the fight against the proposed rule changes and is not mentioned in this list. A call to arms is needed for all who drive yellow cabs, for hire vehicles, paratransit and commuter vans and their organizations.

The vote on the TLC proposed critical driver rules is currently scheduled for November 18th at 10 A.M. 40 Rector Street in downtown Manhattan. See you there.

Karen A Friedman, Esq BBB Business Review Visa Master Card American Express Discover Network