If you are drunk and vomit in a Columbus cab, you will have a $50 fee tacked onto your fare.
Cab drivers say the fee, which went into effect at the end of 2013, will take some of the sting out of having to clean up after drunken passengers.
“Once a passenger soils a vehicle, you cannot work regularly,” said Habtesus Ocbazghi, an independent taxicab driver. “This person has to go home and clean it.”
Drivers also say they hope the fee will serve as a deterrent as well.
The city’s Vehicle for Hire Board approved the rules that say drunken passengers who soil cabs “ with bodily fluids or solids” can be charged as long as drivers post a sign and verbally explain the fee.
Drivers must assess the fee at the end of the ride, said Amanda Ford, spokeswoman for the Columbus Department of Public Safety. If a passenger refuses to pay, the driver can call police.
Children and sober riders who are ill or become sick in the cab are exempt. So are women who give birth in a cab.
Some large cities, including Chicago, have a similar charge. Others, such as New York and Cleveland, do not allow for a soiling fee.
Acme Taxi driver David Herring, a 25-year veteran, said he has seen his share of drunken passengers who mess up his cab.
Jeff Kates, president of Yellow Cab of Columbus, said the $50 fee does not make up for fares lost in the hour it takes to clean a soiled taxi.
Kates said Yellow Cab taxis are outfitted with rubber floor mats for easier cleanup, and he is instructing drivers to carry plastic bags that they can offer passengers who might become sick.
“It’s a huge disruption to the driver’s ability to earn a living,” he said. “That’s where I think it’s fair, but the goal is to avoid it.”
Chicago cab driver Alithan Rustum said the extra fee has helped reduce the number of passengers who get sick in his taxi. Now, drunken customers frequently ask him to pull over and let them out.
“Before, people didn’t care. They just threw up. They didn’t have to pay anything,” said Rustum, who has driven a cab there since 2001. “(The fee) is really helpful. The customer cannot reject that.”
By Rick Rouan - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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