Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Which is deadlier... Combat or Cab Driving?

Which is deadlier... Combat or Cab Driving?

The casualty rate in the military has consistently dropped in the US from the
Revolutionary war to where we are today. For the latest statistics we have -
2008, there were 1,441 deaths out of 1,683,144 active duty. Of those deaths,
however, only 352 were from hostile action, and 43 by homicide - a total of 395
out of 1,683,144, or .023%. The rest were from illness or accident.

By contrast 154,000 active Full Time (I'm including only full time drivers, to
match the criteria in the military statistics, but this ALSO includes limo
drivers). taxicab and limousine drivers were counted in the 2000 Census and
during the same year, an astonishing 49 murders were reported (it is suspected
that 49 is lower than the actual number). So the murder rate for full time taxi
drivers in the US is .032%.

So for individuals who willingly entered into combat, the death rate is 0.023%,
while the murder rate for an individual who signed up to transport people from
one place to another so they could support their families is 0.032%,

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An open letter to Attorney Spivak

An open letter to Attorney Spivak

Lloyd J. Spivak Assistant Staff Counsel
Maryland PSC
William Donald Shaefer Tower
6 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21202-6806

Steve Crowell
P.O. Box 303
Eastham, MA 02642

October 27, 2012
The question seems to be; “is there any substance to these allegations… and what might be the impact in personal injury and death?

The three page letter from the Chief Counsel of the USDOT https://docs.google.com/document/d/138Q-QaZN1StPGYEQaokh0ZWTA574NN9iBFP6zRTnVBI/edit

explains in detail with statutory references just exactly how taxi partitions AND police cruiser partitions are subject to the federal law.

A third floor nose dive inflicts injury similar to a 30 MPH collision. Two cars, travelling 15 MPH, in a head on collision, will cause similar injury to occupants.

Many NYC trauma surgeons and plastic and reconstructive surgeons have spoken out about taxi partition dangers. 


One, of at least 12 other doctors with similar complaints, is Dr. John Sherman - Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, New York Hospital, New York City -  "The results are uniformly disastrous: patients with head wounds from dividers (partitions), fractured noses, lacerations and worse.  Last month I saw two patients die from taxi-related (partition) injuries.”
George Patton was killed in such a collision in 1945. He was in a Cadillac limousine, in Mannheim, Germany, when an oncoming truck crossed their path, making a left hand turn. The vehicles’ impact speed was estimated to be 35 MPH or less. His head was thrown into the partition. He broke his spine and died after 12 days in traction.

The most recent  ‘celebrity’ injured by a taxi partition was Marc Summers, the television MC and producer. Last August (2012) he was thrown into a taxi partition in a collision.  


His doctors could explain the titanium and reconstructive work required to repair the damage better than I. It is extensive. He is considering a class action law suit. His injury occurred in a Philadelphia taxi.

The partitions used in Baltimore taxis are the same partitions as you will find anywhere in a taxi. They are made in NYC. D&M Partitions, Bronx, NY, Glendale Shade & Awning, Queens, NY and Great Partition Co., Bronx, NY are the primary suppliers of partitions for cabs in the US. 
None of these partition manufacturers has ever notified the USDOT that they manufacture, offer for sale and do sell ‘covered’ automobile equipment. “Covered equipment” is, equipment which is required to comply with federal standards. Partitions are currently being manufactured, sold and installed illegally.

I’ll concede that one of these federal rules says these requirements are applicable for installation in new vehicles, prior to the first sale of the automobile.

Persistent corruption in urban taxicab regulator offices nationwide has necessitated that inspection procedures cease in many of these cities. Baltimore taxis are now regulated by a state agency. That is not typical. It may be a safe assumption that the Baltimore Police Department had some trouble doing their job of taxi regulation - honestly.

Now, the usual way the regulator assures the public that the cabs are roadworthy is to place a maximum age limit on the vehicles used as taxis. With this new rule is, usually, a stipulation that all new vehicle registrations must show that the cab was bought new. So, technically one could use sub-standard, uncertified, non-complying, deadly partitions in USED taxis, but not in new taxis going on the road for the first time. Such a requirement would render the compliance exemption for used taxis, moot.

The volume of human exposure to the risks of impact with a taxi partition is astronomical. It would be an efficient application of manpower and resources to take on this task of correcting partition performance flaws.

I anticipate national exposure to this problem shortly, due to Marc Summers being a TV producer with an axe to grind.

I am not trying to give you an unsolvable problem. My answer to your problem, is to cease your requirement for partitions in taxis.

It is likely that you don’t or won’t see the value of removing the partition entirely.

I have tired of explaining how murders are more frequent with taxi partition mandates in place.

So, assuming that you will retain the partition installation rule, I suggest you get in line with federal standards. Stipulate that any partition used must comply with applicable federal standards. It must be certified to be in compliance and it must have a label or a tag on it at the time of first sale asserting compliance.


Steve Crowell

Monday, October 15, 2012

Comments; Doctors comment - we start, and end with, taxi regulator comments

“Those partitions create a plastic surgeons’ dream.”

Jack Lusk -  NYC TLC Chairman 1988-1991

Jack Lusk, for 3 years, extorted every cab owner in NYC to violate Federal Safety Laws with partition installation requirements imposed. The threat was that of being put out of business for failing to install a partition.

Dr. Gregory Husk - Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center, “You can't do this kind of work (Emergency Medicine) without being impressed that the taxicab partition breaks a lot of noses, a lot of lips, a lot of chins.''

NYC taxi partition injury victim
Janet Lee
This is the first such picture found in a NYC newspaper
after more than three decades of NYC taxi partition installation requirements.

Dr. John Sherman - Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, New York Hospital, New York City -  "The results are uniformly disastrous: patients with head wounds from dividers, fractured noses, lacerations and worse.  Last month I saw two patients die from taxi-related injuries.”

I have spoken with Dr. Sherman more than once. He is exasperated and has stopped his efforts to correct the problem. He accepts the partition risks as part of life in NYC.

Dr. Marc Melrose - Emergency Physician, Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan - "Cabs don't have to get into an accident for people to be hurt. The cab stops short and you go flying into the screen with the handles and bolts and that metal change thing. It's dangerous."

 Dr. Rahul Sharma, NYUMC  - has worked in several city emergency rooms, is all too familiar with the  damage the anti-crime partitions, required since 1994, can cause. “Ask any ER doc in Manhattan, and they will tell you they see it very frequently,” he said. “People have a false sense of security in the backseat of a cab.”

Dr. Sharma has been working with Dr. Goldfrank and they are pursuing legislation to make people use seat belts in the rear seats of taxi cabs. I pointed out that correction of the violations of federal motor vehicle safety standards would solve the injury problem for BOTH front and rear seat occupants.

Dr. Stephen Pearlman - Upper East Side facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon - “Gaping soft tissue injuries are also prevalent, since an edge of a partition's sliding door or its metal track can tear the skin.” “In the most severe instances, this causes "almost an avulsion" of the nose.”

Dr. Paul Lorenc – NYC Plastic Surgeon “Crushed noses, fractured cheekbones and eye sockets, and "stellate," or burst lacerations, are among the most common injuries suffered when a passenger is hurled into the clear partition.”

Dr. Geoffrey Doughlin - E.R. Director, Jamaica Hospital – ‘Since the partitions act as a second windshield, back seat passengers fall victim to the same type of injuries as people in the front passenger position, the "suicide seat," ‘

Dr. Arnold Komisar,  Dr. Stanley Blaugrund and Dr. Martin Camins - Lenox Hill Hospital, NYC - "Every emergency room in New York is seeing patients injured in taxicabs: three here, four there, six at another hospital, so it's easy to underestimate the problem,"

Dr. Gary Sbordone – Massachusetts Chiropracter  - “Could cause complex spinal injuries.”

Dr. Sbordone treated my spine injury from a partition in a rear end collision.

Dr. Kai Sturmann - Acting Chairman, Emergency Department, Beth Israel  -  “I would like to see back-seat air bags.”

Dr.  Talmor, Dr. Barie, Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Hoffman, Department of Surgery, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, NY. In 1996 four surgeons from the Department of Surgery, New York Hospital-Cornell
Medical Center released a report, this is a review of it.

“Craniofacial injuries resulting from taxicab accidents in New York City”

Taxicab accidents are a common occurrence in New York City. This review was undertaken to characterize the nature of craniofacial injuries that result from taxicab accidents
Data were collected on 16 patients who required admission to trauma or plastic and reconstructive surgery services, after sustaining craniofacial injury as a result of a taxicab accidents. 
Front-end deceleration collisions were the most common mechanism of injury. 
Fifty-six percent of the patients were thrown against the bulletproof, Plexiglas driver safety divider and sustained an injury most commonly to the anterior midface. 
Both bony and soft tissue injuries were common in the entire group. 
“Given the high incidence of craniofacial injury, appropriate safety standards for taxicabs must be initiated, including the reevaluation of the utility of the safety divider”

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, ACSH (American Council on Science and Health) President, “The deaths and injuries attributed to taxicab accidents are highly preventable.

Dr. Ralph Upchurch, chief of emergency medicine at Somerville Hospital, said not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat of a cab can be especially dangerous because of the plastic divider between the front and back seats.

Dr. Seth Manoach, lead author of the report, said  'The plexiglas partition that seperates the front and back of the cab, protruding change dish, and metal border can cause serious injury in an accident.' He urged taxi passengers to buckle up "Sit in one of the seats with shoulder and lap belts. The middle seats don't have them and during a front-end collision, your head is going to come forward and hit the barrier."
From - 12/29/98 New YorkTimes article about zero seat belt usage observed by N.Y. Univer. Research Team findings 4/97-8/97

Diane McGrath-McKechnie, Chairwoman of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission;
“The experience of New York City absolutely does not support the notion that partitions have increased the number of passenger injuries.”
“We are well aware of the potential dangers of passengers not wearing their seat belts hitting partitions in short-stop circumstances.”

Frank Armstrong, Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Enforcement Section Director, 6/22/84
"Dear Sir: It has come to the attention of this office that you may be in violation of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 by the manner in which you are installing partitions in taxicabs and/or police cruisers.“

Matthew Daus – TLC Chairman 
“These cars and the partitions that are in them are 100 percent safe,” 

Taxi Problems and Government Solutions

Murdered cab drivers

New Problems;
100-300% Murder rate increases with partition use & 300% more collision injury with partition use

New solutions;
Tell drivers to close partition & tell passengers to buckle up

New Problems:
Drivers & passengers don’t comply

New solution;
Eliminate illegal, unsafe, ineffective partitions

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In the book "Nothing to Fall Back On" By Betsy Carter she describes getting her face rearranged by a partition in a NYC taxi.

Nothing to Fall Back on
By Betsy Carter

Chapter 12 p. 127

There is a moment when you stop letting life just happen to you. Mine came at 10:15 on a
cold morning in 1983. I was in the backseat of a taxicab on my way to Esquire after an appointment at the dentist. Engrossed in a New York Times story about David Bowie, I barely noticed the light go from sunshine-white to chapel gray. Something odd, the instant dimness, a jerky turn of the wheel, I don’t know what – made my heart race. The cab rushed into darkness. There was a wall of something solid, not moving in front of us. A stalled Chevy. Did the driver see what I saw? Shouldn’t he slam on the brakes? Why couldn’t I find words to warn him?
In a slow horrifying, motion, every second took on its own entity. Hold on, hold on… but there was nothing to hold on to. The world was going sideways. I was hurtled forward. Launched was more like it. Shrieking tires, grinding metal. My body slammed into the partition in front of me. I heard the sound of a belly flop from a high dive. I didn’t scream. I watched. And then there was silence; as terrifying as the commotion that preceded it. There was blood. I saw a hand I recognized as my own, shaking. My teeth. They’d come undone. This had to be a dream, like dreams I’d had so often. I’m getting up to speak in front of a crowd and all my teeth fall out. I’m opening the front door to greet a date; all my teeth fall out. I thought about Malcom’s polisher, about my parents and what they’d suffered and this must be what it feels like. A voice, in an accent I can only describe as frantic, broke the silence. “Get out of my cab! You get out now!”
Loose teeth rattled around my mouth. My face felt like pieces of a puzzle forced into the wrong places. Inexplicably, the driver was kicking me out of his taxi. I gave myself directions. Reach into your bag. Get your notebook. Write down his license number. Get out of the cab. I leaned against the snowy bank of the tunnel. My maroon beret sat lopsided on my head. Blood trickled from my mouth. People in passing cars noticed, but only one person stopped. Another cabbie. He took me to the emergency room at New York University Hospital. I gave him a lot of money; I have no idea how much. The admitting nurse looked at my face and made a clicking sound with her tongue. She shook her head. ”We don’t do oral surgery here.” she said, and handed me some towels. “You need to go to Belleview.”

On the street, people made arcs around me the way they do when a homeless person walks by. No one asked if something was wrong or if they could help. I don’t know how I walked the ten blocks to Belleview or how long it took. I was shivering, I know that. And I was startled by the thought, no teeth to chatter.

My comment; How could someone with blood and teeth spilling out of their mouth travel by foot on a busy NYC sidewalk for ten blocks without encountering assistance? Unthinkable, but, apparently true. How could the TLC continue to get away with this happening... because of their flawed taxi partition mandate?

If partitions were viable in taxis, trust this, I would endorse the application. I BUILD partitions. Mine do happen to be the only partitions certified to comply with Federal Standards, but that still doesn't mean that the partition is viable in this, relatively speaking, most recent (1968)and unprecedented application and objective of partition use. Partitions are not suddenly 'robbery or assault prevention' devices... just because they get installed in taxis. Those objectives were entirely new and never previously ascribed to partition use in other applications such as utility vans, for cargo retention... limousines, for privacy... and police cars, to keep frisked, disarmed, handcuffed, seat-belted prisoners from any access to the front seat area.

Despite the increases in hand gun attacks with taxi partition use mandates in place and increases in murder rates of cab drivers with partition use, the taxi regulators in several US cities continue to require partition installation. It serves THEIR purposes by creating the ILLUSION that a problem has been addressed, when it HASN'T been.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gunshots increasingly fatal despite bulletproof vests

Deaths may be more frequent because assailants aren't aiming at body mass anymore, because of the possibility that a bullet-resistant vest might be worn, they may be aiming at the head more often. Security measures don't happen in a vacuum. If an adversary is aware of new obstacles, they just inspire the adversary to adjust. In the case of bullet-resistant vests, assailants now adjust their aim. Now they aim at the head. As a result... there are more deaths.
Where cab robbers used to rob drivers most often without a gun. they'd use brute force, an implied weapon or at worst... a knife. That was before partitions rendered knifes strategically ineffective. However, just because there may be a partition now, that doesn't mean the thug won't just roll down a window and aim the gun through the side window at the driver. This is better for the assailants. Now, with a partition, the assailant is immune to driver reaction or retaliation. As a result... there are more deaths of cab drivers.

Monday, October 08, 2012

February 1985 Boston Magazine article

This an excellent example of the bias, condescension and ridicule that can befall a safety advocate... IF HE IS A CAB DRIVER. Elitism and condescension are not uncommon to cab drivers.  The cab driver is concerned about the safety of his, and all Boston cab passengers, yet the writer of this article apparently feels the drivers should be so paralyzed with fear of robbers... that passenger safety shouldn't even rate a place on his priority list. It is more important to ridicule the driver, as a phony safety advocate than to actually understand the problem.

How’s this for unbiased journalism? Crucify a hardworking enterprising cab driver, who has a better mousetrap, concerned about a significant public safety hazard.
“How’s this for a switch? A Boston cabbie who’s campaigning for passenger safety?”
The point being, the partition is (alleged to be) for his safety in an assault, why is he concerned about occupant safety in a collision? Is it just because collisions are much more frequent?

We’ll just tell you that the police mandated the partition installation to protect drivers. For the moment just forget about how infrequent assault attempts are… compared to the frequency of minor, and major collisions in Boston taxis. We will completely disregard the suggestion by Crowell that partitions always fail to protect drivers from assailants attacks.

Mr. Crowell is against them being mandatory and yet he BUILDS them. What a nut! Before we concede that he is absolutely correct about the applicability of federal safety laws, let’s make his intentions look absurd.

He’s against the mandate, yet, he builds one that “protects drivers AND passengers”.

He is emphatic that the partition is a failure at protecting drivers in assaults, but we won’t include THAT in the article. It’s just too confusing to us and our readers, that he would build partitions and then deny that they protect drivers in assaults… especially when the police tell us partitions DO protect cab drivers in assaults.

This confused and self-serving cabbie actually just wants to make a profit selling HIS product. Well, how can he do that, while at the same time he says they don’t work? What a fruitcake!

He has gone so far as to draw up a petition against partitions to “dramatize” the issue! He has “lodged complaints at every step of the regulatory ladder” while simultaneously promoting HIS design.

WE won’t come right out and say that NHTSA has issued ‘official letters of warning to the police and manufacturers’ regarding compliance violations”. We will say they decided that addressing taxi partition and occupant safety any further is not “in the budget” due to “manpower problems”.

 He claims his design is legal. We spoke to Schifflet at the DOT NHTSA and he has never seen Crowells’ partition design and knows nothing of its’ construction, but sight unseen, declares the material used is wrong. So, let’s go with that angle.