Investigation: Dangers of overcrowded taxi cabs

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An Action News hidden camera investigation caught taxi drivers in Atlantic City overcrowding their cabs in an effort to make money.

An Action News hidden camera investigation caught taxi drivers in Atlantic City overcrowding their cabs in an effort to make money. It's an illegal practice that could be putting passengers in a dangerous situation.

The bright lights of Atlantic City are dimming.

The crash of the casino industry taking its toll on everyone. Taxi cab drivers are facing fierce competition to get a fare - so what are they doing?

Shocking undercover video captured a total of 11 passengers getting out of a cab, including the driver. That's 12 people, in a vehicle with only six seatbelts.

"That is illegal in so many ways," said Bill Schugar, cab driver.

Schugar has been driving taxis in Atlantic City for six years and says he sees this all the time.

"It's horrible and I've said something to the city before about it but they don't have enough inspectors or whatever their excuses are," said Schugar.

And that's not the only time Action News saw this happening.

We caught nine people getting out of a van - ten including the driver. Plus in another cab we caught eight people getting out - nine including the driver.

"I'm sure not one of them had a seatbelt on," said Cheryl Birtell of Levittown after watching our video.

Television host Marc Summers knows firsthand.

"Most get in a cab and say, 'Gosh I have nothing to worry about,' and most don't put on their seatbelt - I was one of those," said Summers.

However his cab spun out of control and crashed. Summer's life was changed in an instant.

"I went right into the credit card machine and broke every bone in my face. My teeth were over here, I was a bloody mess and I passed out," he said.

Part of the problem, Summers says, is limited liability insurance required for taxi cabs.

In Atlantic City taxis only have to have $35,000 in insurance, in Philadelphia it's $35,000, but only $15,000 per person in an accident.

That didn't even touch Summers' hospital bills. He had to sue his own insurance company for coverage.

"My hospital bills are six figures, and I have another operation to go," said Summers.

"What we have on our code for taxis is $35,000 liability insurance," said Dale Finch, Atlantic City Director of Licensing and Inspections.

Is that enough?

"No, no - absolutely not," said Finch.

Action News took our video to Finch who is Atlantic City's New Director of Licensing and Inspection.

"It's a violation of the cities codes and ordinances, the maximum would be six passengers," said Finch.

Finch knows this problem exists and admits there is a lack of enforcement.

"These are the things that are out there every weekend. It's wrong, so it will be changed," said Finch.

He's now working on changing the city's codes and ordinances to protect passengers, and boost visitor's image of Atlantic City.

"If there's an accident in a small taxi cab or a small vehicle - seven, eight, nine people - Lord knows what could happen, I mean it would be horrible," said Finch.

Among his planned changes - increasing the amount of insurance cabs have to hold to at least $100,000. He also proposes hiring class two police officers to conduct enforcement around the clock.

However the other piece is to stop passengers from crowding in and taking that risky ride.

"It is a little a little crazy they are taking the risk. Anything can happen, it's just rolling the dice," said Scott Lewis, Rhode Island resident.

Finch plans to start rolling out the new transportation regulations next year and says once the laws are on the books they will be enforced.

Related Topics:
investigationAction News Investigationtaxitaxi driverstaxi ridersn.j. newsAtlantic City
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