Taxis and The Law for Passengers and Drivers
Taxis are the only vehicles permitted to collect people without a prior booking. This right confers certain obligations on drivers and the companies behind them. At the same time, drivers are legally and morally entitled to work safely. This also confers obligations on both passengers and taxi companies.
Rights for taxi drivers
In simple terms, taxi drivers have the right to go about their work in peace and to collect payment for it. This does mean that they can pre-vet passengers before deciding whether or not to accept a fare. It also means that they have the right to insist that passengers sit in the back and install protective equipment in their vehicle.
Drivers also, typically, have the right to choose what payment methods they accept. Taking payment by digital means, e.g. cards, may help to make drivers less of a target for criminals.
Protection for taxi drivers
Taxi drivers have several avenues which allow them to protect themselves in the event of an attack or aggressive behaviour. Taxi drivers by law, do not have to wear a seatbelt, as it enables them to make an escape should they find themselves being attacked from behind.
Taxi drivers can also install CCTV in their vehicles, which is becoming increasingly common. Should passengers be aggressive or act out of place, taxi drivers have clear video evidence of this taking place.
Rights for taxi passengers
As a rule of thumb, passengers should always be accepted by a taxi driver unless the driver has “good reason” to refuse them service. In simple terms, there are only three reasons a driver can use to decline a fare.
The first is that their light is off, indicating that they are not for hire at that moment, although they may still be working. For example, they may be waiting for someone. The second is that it would be outside the terms of their licence. This would usually mean a journey that ended outside of the driver’s licence area. The third is that it would put them at risk in some way.
In order to comply with the Equality Act, taxis must be accessible. This includes wheelchair accessibility. Wheelchair users must be carried at the same cost as non-wheelchair users. Likewise, officially accredited service dogs must also be transported. You also have the right to transport a “reasonable” amount of luggage.
Your driver must take you by the quickest route and keep the meter running at all times. They must provide a receipt albeit often only upon request. They must also take reasonable steps to return any property left in their cab (unless it’s illegal in which case they are obligated to hand it over to the police).
Obligations on taxi passengers
In basic terms, the obligations on taxi passengers are simply to behave reasonably and respect the law. In particular, do not smoke or soil the cab and pay your fare at the end of the journey.
Babies should be strapped into a carrier and toddlers (under three) should sit on an adult’s lap. The adult should wrap the seatbelt around the front of the toddler before clicking it into place. From the age of three, children must sit in their own seats and wear their own seatbelts. All adults must wear a seatbelt at all times.
Pets should be suitably restrained. If they are not, this may count as a good reason to decline a fare.
These days there is a high likelihood that you will be obliged to agree to be filmed during your journey as a condition of service. This is perfectly legal. In fact, many local authorities now insist upon this as a condition of licensing. You do, however, still have your rights under GDPR.