TAXI drivers in Waterford city are abandoning the job come 9pm on Saturday
night because of the increasing threat of violence posed by passengers high
on drink and drugs.
Drivers in the city say that “more and more” they’re becoming the targets of violent behaviour brought on by drink and illegal substances… with the result that every one of them is now in fear of working the most lucrative night of the week.
“Some very serious attacks on drivers have occurred in Waterford in recent years and every weekend now there are problems of some kind,” according to David O’Reilly, representative of the National Taxi-Drivers’ Union locally.
“During the day there are no problems. But at night personalities change after six or seven bottles and anything can result.” “A lot of the time the hassle follows a driver refusing to allow passengers to eat or drink in the car.
“It happened to me only lately and the result was an attempt to stab me with a plastic fork in the back of the head.”
David, whose union represents hundreds of drivers in Waterford, says that drivers in the city are now very anxious about working weekend nights…and many of them are opting to go ‘off duty’ from 9pm.
“A lot of wives particularly don’t want their husbands driving cars on Friday and Saturday nights because of the dangers posed. People forget that drivers are very vulnerable… you can find yourself out in the middle of the countryside with a group of three or four passengers and suddenly you’re in danger.” “I know that in the city centre, drivers will pick up couples any time over three or four young men in a group.”
David says drugs are also playing a part in the problems facing drivers in the city…with the danger being that people high on drugs are hugely unpredictable.
“You always know those on drugs because you pick up a fare and then you find yourself travelling to about three different houses in the city and the passenger is jumping in and out of the car for a few minutes at a time.”
“These kind of situations can be very dangerous. A few years ago people might remember a horrific incident where a taxi-driver was overcome by a passenger sniffing drugs on the New Ross road and when he stopped the car, he was severely beaten.”
David O’Reilly says that while serious incidents involving taxi-drivers are infrequent, there have been a few locally which had been a cause for serious concern.
In addition to the incident above, a woman driver had been sexually assaulted by a young male passenger in a case that went to Waterford Circuit Court in 2003. Six months after that incident in December 2002, the same man assaulted another woman taxi-driver on the Cork Road.
In other incidents, taxi drivers had been robbed (80% of them, he said, refuse to take fares to Kilbarry Halting Site because of ongoing problems there), have had their tyres slashed, have had bricks put through their windows and in the case of another female driver have even been bitten by passengers.
John Usher, President of the Irish Taxidrivers Federation, said attacks on taxi-drivers were an “increasing problem.”
“There have been problems in Waterford but it’s an issue everywhere,” he told the Waterford News & Star this week.
“The danger in this business is that you never know who’s getting into the seat behind you. Some people turn nasty after drinks and drugs but others get into a car with violence already on their minds.”
“Undoubtedly, the penalties need to be stiffer. When gardai are attacked in the course of carrying out their work, there’s no mercy shown by the justice system. Why should the situation be any different for taxi-drivers?” he said.
Source:- Waterford news