Passengers berate us 'very often', say cabbies

Taxi drivers have told The Straits Times that they are verbally abused "very often", after a Facebook video of a local cabby being shouted and sworn at by an irate passenger was viewed more than 600,000 times in two days.

The six-minute clip, posted on Sunday, features a taxi driver being berated for his driving on a journey from Chai Chee to Telok Ayer. The passenger calls the taxi driver a "blind bat", in addition to making demanding requests and threats in a rude and impatient tone throughout the ride.

Netizens responded by calling the passenger a "bully" and praising the taxi driver for being "cool and patient".

However, cabbies that The Straits Times spoke to said such incidents come as no surprise.

"You need to be very tactful when you speak to your passengers," said Mr Patrick Chia Leong Swee, 60, who has been driving a cab for 18 years.

"If you aren't mindful and say the wrong thing, it becomes very easy to offend them."

Mr Chia recalled an incident in which a passenger he picked up at 9am demanded to be taken to the airport in time for his flight at 10am.

"People always assume we cab drivers can do wonders, so they keep shouting at us to drive faster," he said.

Some cab drivers also mentioned the importance of staying calm and collected while driving.

"Even if the customer is in the wrong, you cannot pick a fight with all rude passengers or you will become very agitated," said Mr John Foo, 52.

"Cabbies need to watch both the road and their passengers, so they need to maintain a calm mind to focus," he added.

Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan explained that if a cab passenger's verbal abuse aims to threaten or endanger a driver - as he believed appeared to be the case in the video - it could be considered criminal intimidation.

However, fellow lawyer Amolat Singh pointed out: "There may be a lot of unpleasantness and shouting (in the clip), but the cabby was also talking back, so it becomes more like an argument between the two. That definitely isn't a crime."

samgohwy@sph.com.sg