Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS) — How do you know if your taxi driver is a safe driver?
The 2 Investigators have spent months reviewing the driving records of more than 1,000 cab owners.
The case of Simon Ohiri, who has one of the worst track records, underscores loopholes in city regulations that need to be closed to protect passengers and pedestrians.
Ohiri is licensed by the city, despite 116 traffic tickets for moving violations he has piled up since 1989.
“I’m trying my best,” Ohiri told Zekman. “I’m a cab driver, and I’m on the street almost 15 hours every day. The fact that I make those mistakes, they are not purposeful.
Ohiri has also been sued five times by pedestrians who charge he hit them. The city is unaware of the claims because he’s not required to report them.
Renata Pasmanik, whose lawsuit is pending, was hit as she crossed the street at Canal and Monroe.
“The impact was pretty hard. He threw me about 20 feet in the air,” she said. “I fractured my back.”
“This could have been a whole lot worse,” her attorney, Robert Walsh, adds. “But first and foremost, it should never have happened in the first place.”
It also happened to Leslie Wilson as she crossed a street carrying her 3-year old grandchild, who, luckily, was not hurt.
Wilson had a broken leg. She says Ohiri later told the police he didn’t see her.
During the course of another lawsuit, Ohiri was asked in a deposition about his vision. He testified he had 20/20 vision in his right eye but has no vision at all in his left eye.
A city spokesperson says Ohiri passed his last vision test but will be asked to take another.
The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which licenses cab drivers, requires cabbies to bring in their record of traffic convictions from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office each year when they renew their cab license.
But it never gets a driver’s complete driving history on tickets that have been dismissed in traffic court.
As the 2 Investigators previously disclosed, many of those traffic tickets are dismissed because police officers who wrote the tickets is not in court. A city Law Department spokesman said that’s often because they are on furlough, vacation or have to fulfill other assignments.
Ohiri has had 56 tickets dismissed. As a result, the Department of Consumer Services has required him to take safe driving classes eight times over the last 11 years.
“At what point do you learn how to drive safely?,” Zekman asked Ohiri.
He had no response.
Following CBS 2’s inquiries, the city has begun a top-to-bottom review of its outdated regulatory system.
Effective immediately, cab drivers with convictions for three or more moving violations in the previous year will not be able to renew their license. They can reapply in 18 months.
Anyone who observes reckless driving by a cab driver is encouraged by the city to get the cab license number and report it by calling 311.