Nairobi Taxi Dangers Raise Concern

  • Taxis pictured on a street in Nairobi.
    Taxis pictured on a street in Nairobi.
  • The dark underbelly of Nairobi’s taxi world is making headlines once again, with the dangers faced by customers as well as drivers a major cause for concern.

    On June 14, 2021, a taxi driver who operates within the capital city was charged with committing an indecent act after a customer accused him of attempting to force himself on her.

    According to the testimony present before senior principal magistrate Esther Bhoke at the Kibera Law Courts, the defendant allegedly assaulted the client along Murang’a road in Nairobi. after she resisted his advances.

    He is then reportedly drove her to a small town within Murang’a County and held her hostage before police swooped to the rescue after she secretly messaged her family.

    A taxi parking in Nairobi
    A taxi parking in Nairobi
    Daily Nation

    The case is one of many reported in the capital city involving clients accusing shady drivers of indecent behaviour.

    Technology and digital dependency have led to the erosion of some of the restrictions most held towards taxis yet, needless to say, some of these inhibitions still carry considerable weight as influenced by today’s digital society.

    The country has seen a mass adaptation of the plethora of cab-hailing mobile apps which has not only brought about convenience but some vices as well.

    To mitigate this, the country has seen unique taxi-hailing apps created but instead of men, it recruits women drivers and transports only female passengers alongside children,

    Taxi companies that have a fleet of registered vehicles and taxi-hailing app companies are obliged to conduct the necessary background checks on their drivers and require high standards of vehicle maintenance to ensure the safety of their passengers.

    In addition to this, these companies have a lot to lose if something bad happens in their vehicles. They, therefore usually take the necessary precautions to safeguard against the general risks that passengers will face when travelling in their vehicles.

    Some of these measures include the introduction of a feature that would help protect both riders and drivers in Kenya from the risks of fraud and theft by requiring drivers to periodically take selfies in the app accepting rides

    Notably, taxi drivers also face a huge risk each time they accept a ride request from persons unknown, with carjackings involving taxis a common occurrence.

    In February 2021, the Police announced the arrest of a five-member gang believed to be behind a spate of carjackings targeting taxi operators.

    The five, according to the police, operated between Githurai, Ruiru, and Kirigiti in Kiambu County with their main target being drivers of mobile-hailed cabs in the city.

    According to the police report, the gang allegedly operated by having one of them posing as a passenger, but once inside the cab, he would reportedly choke the driver from the back seat and commandeer the car to a secluded area where his accomplices would then join him.

    In Kenya, the law governing traffic conduct is contained in the Traffic Act, 2016 Chapter 403, laws of Kenya (which was revised in 2018). While the act considers most aspects relating to traffic regulations, it does not have a provision for an app-based system of procuring/transport, especially on apportioning liability in case of security mishaps.

    Despite the fact that this can be considered to be covered in the Kenya Penal Code of 2012, Chapter 63 Laws of Kenya(revised in 2014), such cases are likely to be thrown out based on technicalities

    Measures One Can Take to Minimize Risks

    Waiting for your ride in a safe area is highly advisable. It is also prudent to remain within a well-lit area before your ride arrives.

    Always match the details on your app to your ride. This includes the driver's profile picture, the license plate, and the model of the car. You can go one step further by asking for their name prior to boarding.

    There’s always safety in numbers – especially during night trips. Sharing your ride with a reliable friend greatly boosts safety.

    Ensuring that you always alert someone you trust that you are on your way alerts the driver that the trip is being tracked.

    The safest taxi services in Nairobi are taxis by a company that has a fleet of vehicles and manages its drivers directly. Always go for this option as opposed to little-known private entities.

    Sit in the back seat of the taxi as this gives you more control in case of an incident.

    A file image of taxi drivers in Nairobi
    A file image of taxi drivers in Nairobi
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