SAFETY

Make laws to protect taxi passengers

Passenger safety a major challenge for taxi-hailing app industry.

In Summary
  • Why would a driver, who knows very well all his details are available to the authorities, abuse their clients, including raping them?
  • Kenya then needs to step up the fight against sexual violence by strengthening laws that protect passengers who use these platforms.
Taxis parked in Nairobi's CBD.
Taxis parked in Nairobi's CBD.
Image: FILE

This week a story hit the headlines of a taxi driver who allegedly abducted and locked p his client for two days at his house in Tassia, where he repeatedly raped her. He also stole her phone and other valuables.

Thus was not the first such incident of abuse involving the taxi-hailing app drivers.

Last year it was reported that an Uber driver had demanded twice the fare his clients had been charged by the app operator. The driver sped off with one of the women in his car. She was rescued by guards after she screamed for help.

It should be pointed out that the woman had even offered to get more money from her house to pay the driver as they had reached her destination, but he would hear none of it and started yelling at her.

In 2017 a woman and her five-year-old daughter were thrown out of a taxi by a driver who had been late picking her and was verbally abusive. The driver then demanded payment for a trip that he hadn’t even made.

This then begs the question, how safe are the users of these taxi-hailing app, especially women?

The GPRS captures the vehicle’s registration details, driver’s details, phone number and the exact pick-up and drop-off points.

Uber needs to provide data on harassment, including sexual assault, in the Kenyan market and, as a show of commitment to customer safety, provide evidence of verifiable actions it has taken against abusive drivers.

Why would a driver, who knows very well all these details are available to the authorities, abuse their clients, including raping them, knowing so well that the law will somehow catch up with them?

In the US, Uber recorded 6,000 cases of sexual assault by its drivers in 2017 and 2018. While the number of cases rose in 2018 the rate of incidents dropped by 16 percent as the number of trips increased. The data was published in a report in which Uber showed its commitment to improving safety for passengers.

Uber is facing growing scrutiny around the world and recently lost its licence to operate in London. Passenger safety has been a major challenge for the taxi-hailing app industry. It is reported that Uber is testing new safety features to allow drivers and riders to record audio during trips.

Kenya then needs to step up the fight against sexual violence by strengthening laws that protect passengers who use these platforms to commute across the city.

Uber needs to provide data on harassment, including sexual assault, in the Kenyan market and, as a show of commitment to customer safety, provide evidence of verifiable actions it has taken against abusive drivers.

The Ministry of Interior should work with law enforcement agencies and stakeholders in the transport industry to ensure that taxi-hailing app companies comply with the given laws and those who contravene them face full force of the law including having their operating licences withdrawn, and rogue drivers persecuted. I also advocate proper training of the drivers on safety, integrity and ethics.

Senior Advisor, Finance & Strategy, Howard Group. [email protected]