According to a recent blog post, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has just announced that taxi drivers can now install in-taxi camera so as to deter potential troublemakers of both drivers and passengers. I’m not sure where they got the news from nor whether it’s a confirmed fact.

Nonetheless, if it’s true, to me, as a taxi driver, it’s the best news of the day. I always believe that deterrent is the best form of prevention.

I think you have not forgotten how a cab driver was killed by a Ferrari driven by a Chinese national, who beat a traffic light at high speed, ……how another cab driver was slashed in an unprovoked attack in the early morning hours somewhere in Jurong, ……..And another cab driver beaten unconscious by Korean male passenger who complained about his “lousy” taxi. All these incidents happened three years back. Lately, there were at least 4 cases of drunkard passengers beating taxi drivers up after refusing to pay their fares. I’m sure there are many other nasty taxi related incidents that goes unreported.

These reported incidents might give the impression that cab driving is a hazardous job in Singapore. I don’t think so. Why? Because at anytime, there are at least 15,000 taxi drivers on the road plying passengers. Most passengers are normal, decent and law abiding human begins. Only a few are douche bags. I endeavor to be “street-smart”. The rest I leave it to fate to decide my destiny. Having said that, I think any “measures” from the “G” to protect cabbies from attacks by passengers is a welcome gift, like this lifting the ban on in-taxi camera. Previously, the LTA ban in-taxi camera recordings citing intrusion of privacy as a major concern.

In Singapore, how much privacy do we have anyway?. CCTV is omnipresent in many public places like shopping malls, bus stops, HDB lift landing areas, banks, schools, hospitals and popular roads/lanes. Even unregulated private domes with telescopic lens are flying freely in housing estates. So, like it or not, “Big Brother is perpetually looking over our shoulders EVERYWHERE”.

Many households has CCTV at their front door too. Whether these household CCTV cameras are real or fake, most burglars would avoid households that has one displayed. It, therefore, acts as a deterrent. So, the same principle of deterrent effect can be applied inside a taxi with a real or fake camera. Even a bold red sticker reading “CCTV On Board” might deter prospective criminals or aggressors of taxi drivers.

If a real CCTV miniature camera is installed at a inconspicuous spot inside the taxi, the images or audio recording captured can be relayed through the GPS system to the taxi operator control center and not into a taxi driver’s hand. The facial images stored would certainly helps the police in any criminal investigations or provides audio evidence in case of driver/passenger disputes. To allay commuters fear of invasion of privacy, only taxi company or the authorities can have access to the password-protected camera recordings. Like elsewhere in this world, nobody trust lowly taxi drivers.

Now, regarding the in-taxi camera, the big question is whether taxi operator is willing to bear the cost of needlessly spending million of dollars to protect taxi drivers. Frankly, they are more concern of their bottom line than anything else. As long as rental is collected, they do not care how the drivers survive or care about their safety.

Everyone knows that airbags had save thousands of lives since their introduction in early 1980s. To maximize profit, the most despicable thing some taxi companies had done was instructing their taxi manufacturers to dispense with and remove the airbags of all their taxis. Is LTA aware of this unscrupulous act or are they closing an eye while bedding GLC partners?. Toyota Wish taxis of Transcab has airbags but not COMFORT taxis. What about SMRT, Premier and Prime Taxi?. In case you are inside a COMFORT taxi, try to avoid being a front seat passenger and if you are a COMFORT taxi driver, GOD BLESS YOU!.

COMFORT has installed in-vehicle camera facing the road to protect their interest in case of a traffic accident insurance claim and certainly not to protect their drivers from potential aggressors. If cost overrides the safety of their drivers, perhaps COMFORT could be persuaded to spend just a few hundred dollars on cheap “CCTV On Board” stickers instead of a real camera as a deterrent effect on potential criminals and for the sake of their drivers.

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