In July 2012, the state of Illinois passed a law allowing taxi drivers to charge a $50 clean-up fee to passengers who vomit in their cabs. The law was part of a larger push for higher rates from taxi drivers, including a 22% rate increase, a $1.50 credit card service charge, and a $50 fraudulent credit card charge. George Kasp, a spokesman for the lobbying drivers, said that the increased rates were needed just so taxi drivers could make a decent living. Most drivers, he said, were working up to 16 hours a day just to bring home enough money to support their families.
Taxi drivers in Key West, Florida were more straightforward. They want a vomit fine because drunk people get sick in their cabs-often. A tentative ordinance by the Key West City Commission has ruled that drivers may charge $50 whenever a passenger vomits in their cab. According to the Miami Herald, the rule states , “In the event that a taxicab passenger soils the interior of a taxicab with bodily fluids or solids, a $50 clean-up fee will be added to the trip fare.” Five 6’s taxi company, a leader in pushing for the new ruling, says that five or six drunk passengers lose it all in the backseat of one of their cabs every year, especially during the 10-day Fantasy Fest in October and on New Year’s. To make it even more clear that taxi drivers were only looking to target drunk passengers, they stated that the fine would not be levied against small children or those who were ill.
Will Barf Fines Add to Increased DUI Arrests?
Any DUI attorney would be concerned by these rulings. Whatever happened to encouraging safe driving and responsible drinking? As Ron Klein, executive director of the St. Louis taxicab commission says, “We promote our cabs as the ultimate designated driver.” However, Klein was encouraging St. Louis lawmakers to consider a reasonable fine for vomiting when rogue taxi drivers started levying fines of their own. Klein’s former status as a St. Louis police sergeant makes it particularly disappointing that Klein would encourage such legislation. In his time as a law officer, he was on hand at hundreds of accidents related to drunk driving and recognizes that “cabs played a crucial role in keeping people who have had too much to drink from getting behind the wheel,” as Ken Leiser of the The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.
While lawmakers rail against the dangers of drinking and driving, there appears to be little acknowledgement of or concern for those who need alternatives without fear of penalty. It seems that once again, a new law has veered off the true course of action, which is to ensure that drivers who are seriously impaired do not get behind the wheel of a car. Anything that deviates from that objective is of questionable value and also tends to punish light social drinkers who are fully capable of driving with the same heavy hand that seriously impaired drivers receive. If drunk driving laws are to have the intended impact, lawmakers must maintain tighter focus rather than try out every measure presented. We all agree that drunk driving is a real problem-but casting the net too widely only serves to dilute the solutions.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.