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11 Things Your Taxi Driver Won’t Tell You

Read accounts from real taxi drivers about their pet peeves, tricks of the trade, and how to flag down a cab that will actually stop for you.

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drive a lotNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

I drive a LOT

The New York City Taxicab Fact Book reports that one cab travels roughly 70,000 miles every year. In fact, the average life span of a taxi in New York City is a little more than three years. At that point, it may have travelled as much as 300,000 miles.

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hailingNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Hailing a taxi is an art

Don’t be surprised if cabbies zoom past you when you have your arm half-raised and are standing on the sidewalk. These tips from The Art of Manliness sum it up perfectly: Head to the nearest street corner on the side of the street that you want to head down. Safely stand on the street (one or two feet from the curb) so drivers can pick you out from the rest of the sidewalk traffic. Raise your arm high and confidently, and when you see a cab, make eye contact with the driver. If he keeps your gaze or nods, that means he’ll head your way, and you’ve successfully flagged down a taxi.

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directionsNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Don’t try to give us directions

One of a taxi driver’s worst pet peeves is a backseat driver. Knowing the route to your destination is your driver’s livelihood. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with telling a driver a specific route you’d prefer to take right after you get in the cab; just don’t keep telling him where to turn at the last minute. Here are more driving etiquette tips everyone needs to remember.

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tricksNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Yes, some drivers have tricks to make you pay more

If you’re at an airport or a tourist-y area, drivers are more likely to assume you’re from out of town and will opt for the “scenic” route, aka the lounger, more expensive route to your destination. They may even ask you if you prefer the shortest route or the fastest in hopes you choose to value your time over your wallet. To avoid getting swindled, act like you’re already familiar with the city. Don’t give any indication that you’re only in town for a short while, as that implies you’re new and don’t know where you’re going.

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competitiveNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

My job is extremely competitive

Drivers get the majority of their money from street hails, as opposed to scheduled pick-ups. 40-year New York City taxi driver Eugene Salomon told Mental Floss, “Most people don’t realize that during many hours of a shift, passengers can be hard to come by, so it’s very competitive among the drivers trying to get to the silhouette of a person two blocks down the avenue who is raising a hand in the air.” So while it may seem like no cab is stopping for you, know that their paycheck literally depends on it.

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copsNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

I can get the cops’ attention when I need to

Taxicabs in New York City have a secret panic button underneath their dashboards, Salomon also revealed. When pressed, it turns on a flashing amber light that appears at the front, rear, and behind the grille of the vehicle, and lets the nearest officer know there’s trouble. Salomon said that he’s never been in physical danger, but he has used it when he was “in danger of not being paid the fare.” Find out more surprising things you never knew about cops.

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make outNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Go ahead and make out in the backseat

Most drivers will put up with that, and they legally can’t stop you. But if it goes any further, you’ll probably be told to stop or get kicked out of the car, or the driver will intentionally try to mess with you by driving over potholes (which may be the most unfortunate outcome of them all).

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grossNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

My cab is gross

One NYC cab driver confessed to Reddit, “The cars NEVER get cleaned. They’re filthy.” That’s partly attributed to those couples who try to get it on in the backseat, but also from spilled food, vomit, and whatever passengers carry in from their shoes. Needless to say, the five-second rule does not exist in a taxi.

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drunkNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Don’t assume I’ll pick you up if you’re drunk

New York City cab drivers have the right to refuse service to anyone they deem is drunk and disorderly. If you are drunk and need a ride, compose yourself and don’t throw up in the backseat. But be warned: Drivers who know you’re intoxicated may try to pull a “reverse drunk drop,” which means they’ll drive your around the block and leave you where you were picked up.

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expensiveNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Being a cab driver is really expensive

In certain cities, all taxi drivers must have an official taxi medallion on the hood of their car. But that medallion costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are mostly owned by companies that control fleets of taxis, CNN reports, but sometimes drivers buy them themselves. And many owners need to refinance short-term loans just to keep the medallion or give them up to lenders as collateral. So no matter how much a driver makes in a night, a chunk of that revenue is being used just to help him keep his job.

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tippingNicole Fornabaio/, shutterstock

Please tip appropriately

A 20 percent tip is standard for a taxi ride, although it should go slightly higher for longer rides. If the driver helps load and unload your bags, tack on a few extra dollars.

Want to know more insider secrets? Check out the 27 things your pizza guy won’t tell you.