Improper Taxi Pickups

You’re driving your taxi down a busy Manhattan street. Suddenly, the back door flings open.

“Let me out here,” your passenger says. And just like that, he’s jumping out of your cab, throwing money at you, and he’s gone. Before you can count your money, you look up and see a traffic cop pulling you over.

New York City’s traffic rules require taxi cabs to make all of their passenger pickups and drop-offs within one foot (twelve inches) of the curb. Additionally, drivers may not make pickups or drop-offs in crosswalks or bike lanes. As any New Yorker knows, this rule is rarely observed by either drivers or passengers. People often jump into the middle of the street to hail a taxi, and if you’re going to pick them up, you have no choice but to stop where the passenger is.

But be careful. Many police officers make a point to enforce unlawful taxi pickups. Officers commonly issue two tickets for this activity — “improper taxi pickup” and “obstructing traffic lane.” The improper taxi pickup ticket carries no points on your license. But the obstructing traffic lane summons is a two-point violation. Obstructing a traffic lane means that a vehicle being driven (not parked) is idling, and blocking cars in a certain lane of traffic.

Through no fault of your own, you could end up with two points on your license. All because your passenger decided to open the door and get out without informing you.

Some cops decide to just issue one summons. If it’s the improper pickup, it’s not a big deal — that ticket carries no points. If it’s the two-point obstructing traffic lane, of course, it’s a different matter.

As a traffic attorney, my taxi driver clients bring this ticket to me all the time. It’s usually given at busy places like Penn Station, where taxi drivers often find fares. My job, first and foremost, is to handle the obstructing traffic lane ticket. If you get two tickets, I will try my best to get the obstructing ticket is dismissed, which means you do not get points.

Ironically, it can be better for the motorist to get two tickets, as opposed to just getting one ticket for obstructing the lane. I can “merge” the offenses into one violation, which results in the two-point getting dismissed. The no-point ticket has no effect on your license — you’ll just have to pay DMV a fine.

Remember to always use available space by the curb when making a pickup or drop-off. And if you get tickets for making an improper pickup or obstructing a traffic lane, fight them in court. The points and penalties add up, and they can affect your career as a driver.