Many times many people tend to either leave the office or town in general at late hours of the night. With little options of getting public transport and reservations about walking in the estate alone in the dark, this brings up the safer alternative of taking a taxi. They are considerably more expensive than public means but a much safer option since they have the option of taking you up to your estate or to your main gate; though this is not advisable for security reasons.
However, anytime you get into a taxi, you surrender a bit of control to another person. They are people unknown to you (unless its your regular cab guy), with different personalities, moral clauses and even agendas, so it’s important to think carefully about your safety. On the other hand, many taxi drivers, who I have personally interacted with, are great sources of information. They are really good at giving advice on which best route to take, especially if you are new to a certain area, and are also great to talk with. It is however advised not to share too much personal information so be cautious on over sharing.
2 weeks back a female passenger in Nairobi shared her experience of being assaulted by an Uber cab driver. She vividly gives the details of her story which immediately gives you chills. It also makes you re-think on the safety measures we use while taking public transport services.
Here are some tips to ensuring your safety in a taxi.
1. Have a regular cab guy.
Taking a taxi home becomes easier once you have someone regular that you can trust. This saves up on energy and time in giving them directions. It is also convenient when you’re in an emergency situation and don’t have the money beforehand to pay for the ride.
2. Take note of the vehicle
If you’re using a taxi for the first time, make sure you take note of the number plate, the driver’s name and number. Text the details to a friend or family member especially if you’re traveling at night. Also, make sure they are registered taxis. Some people can pose as taxi drivers but have other twisted agendas in mind. Taxis usually have registration details and you can ask the driver to see their license and papers before you even start your journey.
Also take note of your driver; if he appears drunk, slightly intoxicated or in no condition to drive, do not get into his vehicle.
3. Make sure he/she knows where you’re going
We mostly expect taxi drivers to know every inch of the city. While this is in most cases unrealistic, it’s better to first of all know if the driver knows exactly where you’re going. This avoids wasting time in giving him directions and the probability of you getting lost or worse are drastically reduced.
Also, while on the road, don’t get carried away on your phone. Always keep a close eye on the route your driver is taking.
4. Never take a taxi alone if you’re drunk
Taking a taxi home is usually the best option especially when you’ve had one too many to drink but always make sure you have someone to take the ride home with you. In the semi-conscious to almost unconscious state that alcohol can put you in, gives someone endless opportunities to assault, rob or even kill you. With a sober friend by your side, you can even pass out and rest as they make sure that you are both taken home safe.
5. Take the backseat
Many people usually take the passenger seat but it is advisable to sit in the backseat. It makes you less visible and less accessible both of which lessen your chances of getting robbed if you are likely to be targeted.
Another thing to take note of is to never allow the driver to pick up someone else. No matter what reason they give, refuse the option of sharing the taxi with a stranger. If they refuse to oblige, you can always get another taxi.
6. Keep windows and doors closed.
Once you get into the taxi, ask the driver to lock the doors and windows. Keeping the window rolled up seems like a minor issue, especially owing to the crazy Nairobi sunny weather, but from a thief’s point of view, is an opportunity to steal your items. If you have to use your phone, roll up your windows and if it becomes too congested, you can always ask the cab driver to turn on the air conditioning.
7. Keep valuable items hidden
The option of taking personal transport might seem like a good idea to take out your Macbook or Iphone to finish up the report or endlessly chat away with your friends, but it also puts you as a vulnerable target as you flash your gadgets. There have been endless reports of thieves even opening the doors to cars and stealing items especially while stuck in traffic. I personally witnessed an incident along Uhuru Highway where a lady’s bag was grabbed as a man briskly opened the door, grabbed the bag with all her contents inside and took off.
Store your mobile phones and other electronics in your bag and ensure that you have closed up your bag and kept it close to you – preferably on the floor between your feet where it’s hard for them to see or reach.
8. Have your keys ready
When you reach home, always have your keys ready to get into your house. The time spent fumbling in your bag for your house keys puts you in a vulnerable state that some drivers can take advantage of. If you trust your driver and feel safe with him around, you can ask him to wait for you to first get into the house so that he can leave.
9. Don’t hesitate to scream for help
If for some reason you sense that something’s not right with the driver and you’re already on your way, do not hesitate to scream for help. Make sure you’ve opened your window and call for help. If need be, get out of the car and run to the nearest public area that you see. If there are policemen around, give them the details of the incident and the details of the taxi driver and his vehicle as well.
10. Always stock up
While taking any means of public transport, especially in the evening, always make sure that your mobile phone has enough battery and airtime to get you through any emergency situation. Have a list of reliable emergency contacts on your speed dial and it’s always best to update one of them on your whereabouts as you go along you journey. If you are unsure of your destination, let your contacts keep you updated according to your location. Google Maps can also come in very handy in such situations.