How safe are Nashville's cab drivers? - WKRN News 2

How safe are Nashville's cab drivers?

Posted: Updated: Nov 15, 2011 6:23 PM CST
Cynthia Pittman was hit by a cab driver on July 25, 2008. Cynthia Pittman was hit by a cab driver on July 25, 2008.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Taxi cab drivers in Nashville get pulled over a lot for traffic violations.

In fact, a Nashville's News 2 Investigation has found that many cabbies go to driving school over and over again to get infractions legally removed from state driving records so they can remain behind the wheel.

Cynthia Pittman was hit by a cab driver on July 25, 2008 while driving on a Nashville street with her son and three of her young grandkids.

"He came from the far right, came over and all I heard was boom," Pittman recalled of the collision.

The children were not injured but Pittman was rushed to the hospital with an injury to her leg that still bothers her more than three years later.

"I was told later that I needed a total knee replacement," she continued, adding, "Thank God it didn't cost me my life but it did cost me a portion of my life."

According to the Metro police crash report, the cab driver "failed to yield the right of way."

A closer look at the cabbie's driving record shows a number of violations, including speeding, careless driving and running of red lights.

Since 2007, the 43-year-old cab driver has been to Metro traffic school six times and according to court documents, a Metro judge allowed him to take a driving course four times in the six months prior to the collision with Pittman.

"I'm shocked, appalled and hurt," Pittman said upon learning of the cabbie's driving record, adding, "The state of Tennessee is equally as responsible as he is because they allowed it to happen."

The cab driver who hit Pittman is not alone and according to Nashville's News 2's findings, he's the tip of the iceberg when the driving records of all Nashville cab drivers are examined.

According to Metro traffic school officials, out of the 900 cab drivers in Nashville, more than 600 went to traffic school at least once in the last year and it's not uncommon for drivers to attend traffic school seven, eight, 10 or even 13 times.
According to traffic school officials, anyone can legally go to two traffic schools in one year and up to four traffic schools in three years but ultimately it's up to the judge.

"Why was he driving that night he hit me and he is doing it over and over and over and sooner or later he is going to kill someone," Pittman continued.

Brian McQuistion is Metro's Director of Transportation and Licensing Commission.

When asked why his agency continues to license chronic offenders, he said it's because they do not have access to the same database the court system and police use, meaning they look at the Tennessee Department of Safety driving records which do not reflect driving infractions of drivers who have successfully completed a Metro traffic school.

Based on the findings of Nashville's News 2's investigation, McQuistion says the cabbie who hit Pittman in 2008 should not have been licensed to drive a cab the night of the wreck.

In addition, he says seven cab drivers who would have received a permit this year were denied since September because of the investigation.

High profile Nashville attorney David Raybin told Nashville's News 2 the city should make safety a top priority and make such traffic records available to police and the courts available to the Transportation and Licensing Commission.

"Give the licensing board what they need to make an intelligent decision to protect us and it is no more complicated than that," he said.

An official with one of Nashville's major cab companies told Nashville's News 2 they do not check the driving record of each driver rather they rely on the Transportation and Licensing Commission.

Like Raybin, the official said he also favors a system that will give the commission the same database police and the court system use, showing each driver's full driving history.

A spokesperson for Nashville Mayor Karl Dean declined to comment on the issue.

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