Because taxi drivers aren't heeding the current regulations, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is proposing a major change in the rules.
Essentially, using cell phones or other handheld devices -- at all -- will be completely prohibited while a taxi is in motion. Drivers won't even be allowed to use headsets or hands-free kits. Drivers will only be permitted to talk when the taxi is parked.
In order to convince taxi and limo drivers to abide by the regulations, much steeper penalties are in the works. Currently, drivers caught talking when taxiing are subject to a $200 fine. The TLC is considering much higher fines, plus a 2-point deduction on drivers' licenses for first offenses. If a driver offends a second time, they'll be suspended for 30 days. A third offense committed within 15 months can lead to a taxi/limo driver losing their taxi license. That's pretty severe.
The TLC is currently seeking public comment on the new cell phone policies. If you live or work in New York City, feel free to let the TLC know what you think. Any proposed rules will be voted on and enacted by the end of the year.
Personally, measures such as this are long overdue. When you commission a taxi or limousine, you're placing your life into the hands of the driver. Passengers have a right to a ride in which the driver is focusing 100% on the task at hand -- driving.
Next time you get into a taxi and the driver is talking on a cell phone, speak up and tell them to hang up.