Police crack down on illegal taxis

Police are warning users of illegal taxis in Dunedin, after a motorist offering rides on the popular Facebook site was revealed as a disqualified driver.

The Facebook page ''Dunedin Sober Drivers'' has attracted 1900 users and also the attention of police concerned about the safety of passengers and other motorists.

On Friday night, police identified one of the ''taxi'' drivers as disqualified when a patrol pulled over the car just after midnight.

The motorist, who was carrying no passengers when stopped by police, has now had their car impounded for 28 days, and is expected to appear in the Dunedin District Court tomorrow. Sergeant Andrew Savage, of the commercial vehicle investigation unit, made no apologies for the crackdown, as both police and the New Zealand Transport Agency had concerns over illegal taxis.

Checks on the Facebook page revealed some of the drivers had only restricted licences, with one having two drink-driving convictions.

While authorities supported the use of sober drivers by known support groups and cost-sharing among friends, an unlicensed service was not only illegal but potentially harmful, he said,He was particularly concerned that some drivers were offering ''fast'' rides to Mosgiel, and that passengers had no idea of the safety of the transport or the people they were riding with.

Both police and the NZTA endorsed having sober drivers with known support groups and cost-sharing among friends, but stressed that picking up passengers for hire was illegal, without the correct passenger endorsement.

However, users of the service told the Otago Daily Times they would continue to drive passengers, or request rides, as it was cheaper than a taxi.

''I have used it a couple of times and it has always been [good].

''Taxis are expensive and not always available,'' a 22-year-old woman said.

However, Sgt Savage said taxis and their drivers underwent checks designed to protect the public, and featured cameras designed to protect the public and driver alike.

Unlicensed taxis offered no such assurances, and police were concerned about females potentially being put in dangerous situations, he said.

A person found operating an unlicensed passenger transport service could face a fine up to $10,000 for a first offence, with a second offence costing up to $20,000.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

Train to Mosgiel

There's nothing I'd rather more than to be able to end a night on the town by catching a train out to Mosgiel, knowing it was going to be safe, secure and probably much cheaper than a taxi. 

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