Letter of the week 1: Taxi drivers can fight back with good service, attitude

Complaints to taxi companies about errant drivers often fall on deaf ears as the drivers are clients of the company and bring in profits.
Complaints to taxi companies about errant drivers often fall on deaf ears as the drivers are clients of the company and bring in profits.PHOTO: ST FILE

That taxi drivers need to embrace change to survive in the face of ride-hailing competition is a given, but it is not only digital skills they have to pick up (Call to taxi firms and drivers to embrace change, July 30). A change in attitude is just as crucial.

A hefty third of our taxi drivers are senior citizens between the ages of 60 and 74.

Not brought up immersed in technology, they are hard put to be as savvy or quick-fingered as their younger, ride-hailing competitors in the race for customers.

So the area where they can improve is in making the ride more pleasant.

They can start by not refusing rides using time-worn excuses, leaving the sullen demeanour at home and being more positively responsive to commuters, qualities which are far more prevalent among ride-hailing drivers than "taxi uncles".

Complaints to taxi companies about errant drivers often fall on deaf ears as the drivers are clients of the company and bring in profits.

On the other hand, ride-hailing drivers are far more conscious of their attitudes, the state of their vehicles (which are often newer anyway) and their driving etiquette, knowing that repeated poor assessments by passengers affect the incentives the ride-hailing firm pays them.

By next year, there will be more than half a million senior drivers on the road.

While teenage and young adult drivers, who are usually inexperienced and more reckless, have the highest collision rates, accident rates pick up again when drivers turn 70, with octagenarian counterparts guilty of a disproportionate number of accidents.

Senior drivers, in particular, perhaps, taxi drivers, often feel that decades of driving experience make them better drivers.

Yet nobody beats the ill effects of old age, which brings with it decreasing cognitive functions, narrowing fields of vision, especially at speed, and delayed reaction times to emergencies (of which the last two are not and cannot be tested at a general practitioner's clinic to certify an elderly driver as medically fit to have his driving licence extended).

While taxi drivers need to earn a living, from the societal point of view, policies to discourage older people from driving make sense.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)