This is an article for South Africans specifically, because I doubt that there is another region that has taxis that could even slightly be compared to the phenomenon of the South African Taxi.
The 16-seater is usually filled with double the allowed passenger load, and then a few more. It follows no road rules and I am almost certain that it has a “Make a Random U-Turn Now” button. If you are fortunate enough to drive in the vicinity of a taxi, you need to bear in mind that at any moment, without any hesitation or indication, it may stop, accelerate, make a u-turn or push in front of you. You live in anticipation of a random surprise, which by now, is not at all random or surprising anymore. And then there’s the hooter – the national sound of South Africa – a bleating hooter acting as a marketing mechanism.
Taxis carry 65% of the 2.5 billion annual passenger trips in the urban environment and serve as the base-load public transport carrier in South Africa. Although many South Africans lose their cool at the sound of the word “taxi”, never mind the sight of them, in 2014 they transported an average of 15-million passengers a day.
So why do I support them? Why do I, an average white, middle-class South African female who has never utilised the services of a South African Taxi (and in all likelihood never will), give them way to drive in front of me, not get mad when they stop dead in front of me, or when they make a random u-turn, and why do I laugh at people who get infuriated by them when they do any of the above?
- They are the reason my domestic worker and gardener arrive at my home in the mornings and arrive at their respective homes in the evenings.
- They are the reason why so many low-income households can arrive at their respective places of work and earn a living, thereby reducing the unemployment rate in South Africa.
- At taxi-ranks there are not only queue organisers, but “spaza” shops and other hawkers earning a living and also reducing the unemployment rate in South Africa.
- Taxi-owners (not the drivers) have such stringent rules and requirements that their drivers have to abide by (road safety, unfortunately, isn’t one of them) and violence within the industry is rife. Then there is also the rivalry between taxis, which has caused violent “taxi wars”. I have respect for the drivers who risk a lot to commute people who add value to our economy every single day. After all, it is a money-making business, with an annual revenue estimated at R 39.8-billion in 2014.
Those who are not supportive of the taxi-industry often cite the fact that they are a danger on the roads as their main reason. According to Arrive Alive, of the 36 deaths that occur on average on our South African roads on a daily basis, 3 of them are taxi-related, while drunk driving is the most prevalent reason (65% of all accidents – i.e. 23 of the 36 deaths) followed by distracted driving (yes, your freaking cellphone!!). So, keeping the statistics in mind, taxis actually aren’t as responsible for our road accidents as thought – you should hate your phone more. As for a drunk taxi-driver on his phone (which is not an anomaly) I have no answer and hope that we never cross paths.
So, the next time a taxi annoys you or causes you to have to slam on brakes, take a deep breath, thank them for their contribution to society and let it go. After all, we don’t need another reason to raise our blood pressure.
Now, as for BMW-drivers…well that is a completely different breed of person… 😉