It's hard to believe, but cab drivers in New York City are prohibited by law from talking on cell phones, with or without headsets. That doesn't seem to stop them, says the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission. Citing phone-related accident statistics, the commission is now proposing more stringent rules that would raise fines and even keep cabbies from using hands-free devices to chat. "We've tried everything else; there's no other way we can make this work," says Matthew W. Daus, the taxi commissioner.

In the first six months of 2009, only one ticket was issued for every 500,000 cab rides. Cabbies escape prosecution because they claim they were only wearing the hands-free devices, not using them. "Judges have been dismissing summonses because there's no proof of conversation," says Daus. Under the proposed rules, the wearing of a headset merits an infraction. Under the current rules, cab drivers are allowed to talk on cell phones while stopped at a red light. The new rules would require drivers to pull over to answer the phone.

Without a doubt, the cabbies are riled. Calling the proposed rules inhumane, they claim mobile phones are crucial in emergencies and the only way they are able to keep in touch with relatives during their 12-hour shifts. While the drafted rules are subject to public hearings next month, the drivers point out the absurdity of some of the proposals. When one organizer at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance was told that he'd have to pull over to answer a ringing phone, his amusing answer was rather succinct: "Where do you get space to put your car?"

[Source: NY Times | Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty]

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