Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Assaults on taxi drivers

Media Release

16 November 2000

The Australian Institute of Criminology has today released two reports on assaults on taxi drivers. The first report discusses incidence patterns and risk factors for taxi drivers. The second report looks at measures to prevent assaults on taxi drivers in Australia.

Key points from both reports follow:

  • Occupational violence is common in the Australian taxi industry, and the patterns of injury are predictable. Verbal abuse is an everyday occurrence. Assaulted taxi drivers usually suffer bruises, lacerations, and fractures to the head and upper body, as well as emotional repercussions. Passengers in the rear seat of cabs perpetrate most assaults. At least one taxi driver is killed each year.
  • Robbery is the most common motivation for violence against taxi drivers, who are comparatively 'easy' targets because they work alone, carry cash, accept unknown people as passengers, and many drive in isolated areas.
  • Few incidents are formally recorded on workers' compensation databases or other official statistical collections. As a result there is a significant understatement in official databases. As a result of under-reporting, precise estimates of the incidence and severity of violence in the taxi industry are not available.
  • Eight risk factors are associated with violence against Australian taxi drivers. Passengers with more of the risk factors are more likely to commit an assault. These factors include: male, young, evening or night work, inebriated passengers, a 'hail' from the street, inner city pick-up, disadvantaged socio-economic clients, and the pursuit of fare evaders by drivers.
  • The prevention of assaults against taxi drivers requires a combination of strategies, as there is no easy "quick fix" solution. The range of interventions that reduce the risk of assaults on taxi drivers includes "target hardening" approaches (making robbery more difficult) improved surveillance, and the introduction of cashless payment systems.
  • "Target hardening" technical strategies include the fitting of safety screens or shields, improved emergency communication systems (especially Global Positioning Systems), and emergency lights and duress alarms.
  • Improved surveillance is most effectively achieved through installation of security video or digital cameras that record passengers throughout a journey. Improved lighting and video recording at cab ranks also assists.
  • Cash reduction strategies are aimed at reducing the incentive for robbery; as a result the risk of robbery-related assaults diminishes. Drivers should: never carry much cash, deposit cash frequently during each shift at ATM's, switch to cab charge vouchers, introduce magnetic "swipe cards", never tell a passenger that they have had a "good" shift, and require pre-payment for long journeys.
  • Some aggression from passengers may be minimised through initial greeting, maintenance of eye contact whenever possible, avoidance of arguments, and ensuring the taxi driver is knowledgeable about routes around the city. Most importantly, drivers should be able to refuse a high-risk passenger(s).