There is a need to protect taxi drivers and their families.
Before I go on to comment about the case, I feel it is important to remember that there is still a family who lost a father and a breadwinner. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the family, even as they move on with their lives.
I have seen the footage of the accident (it went viral rather quickly) and I read the reports. I can’t say I am fully familiar with the issue because I have never had the privilege of owning a car. I do have a driving license, and I have driven company vehicles for work purposes, both in day and night conditions.
Here is my take.
By not paying out, AXA has made a very firm stand on whether insurance companies should bear liabilities for a driver who acted recklessly and endangered the lives of other road users.
I agree wholeheartedly that the insurer should not compensate the family of a deceased driver who acted dangerously and without regard for others’ safety. In this case, the Ferrari driver should not have been driving the way he did.
But I have a concern here – and that is for the family of victims. I am not familiar with car insurance policies (my fellow citizens should comment and educate me on this), but if there is a payout that needs to be made to the family of an innocent party who was injured or killed by the reckless driver, the insurer ought to proceed with that payout. If AXA has done that (compensate the family of the late taxi driver), and is now attempting to collect this sum back from the Ferrari driver’s family, I salute AXA for doing so and putting themselves through this process of litigation and spending resources on this task.
I do believe all cars must be insured, and all drivers must be licensed. Insurers ought to be aware that they are essentially putting a driver and a car on the road whenever they sell an insurance policy. In this respect, the insurer has a dual role – one as a service provider making profit from taking a risk, and the other as a corporate citizen with a social responsibility who should not insure a driver who might not be the best operator of a vehicle. I’m not saying that the Ferrari driver was a bad one (though I think he was), but generally speaking, insurers should take this as an obligation, one that must be taken seriously.
On the part of licensing drivers, I do note that there are a large number of foreign drivers on Singapore roads. I urge the Traffic Police and the Land Transport Authority to impose the same standards on foreign-licensed drivers as they do on local candidates. We must note that the road conditions, traffic conditions and driving culture are different in Singapore. We are not like the rest of the world. But let us not forget that we too, have bad drivers who are Singaporeans. They should be taken to task for their misdeeds and offences.
Taxi drivers are a vulnerable group – they rent taxis, drive around for a fare, and pay rental to the taxi companies. Taxi drivers are “hirers” in the eyes of the taxi companies, and “independent contractors” in the eyes of the law. They are not employees. They do not receive the same protection and benefits that employees do. I personally feel that we need to protect them better.
Think about it – when they fall sick, they lose money. I once took a taxi when I had a cough. The driver insisted on driving with the windows open. He humbly apologized and informed me that he was afraid of falling ill. “I take ‘MC’, no one pay me”, he said. Other taxi drivers told me that they couldn’t afford to take leave, since they earn their fares on a per-trip basis. The taxi drivers do not earn CPF.
Lastly, passengers who ride in taxis should be offered a degree of protection. We must implement minimum standards of safety – air bags to say the least. We should establish the duty of care that the taxi owners (i.e. the taxi companies) owe to the public.
I hope to see Singapore set the standard in managing taxis, licensing foreign drivers and administering taxi drivers’ benefits and protection in the near future.
– Posted 5 Sept 2012 on Temasek Times