GrabTaxi has launched a safety campaign after increasing reports of drivers targeting women in assaults and robberies. (JG Photo/ Sylviana Hamdani)
GrabTaxi’s Tips to Grab a Taxi
FEBRUARY 08, 2015
Jakarta’s weather is terrible these days. It sometimes rains for days, inundating many streets and houses, making it very hard to get around.
During this wet season, many trains and buses do not operate, or change their routes. Taxis then become one of the more reliable modes of transportation. Unfortunately, it also results in fierce competition for a taxi, especially during rush hour. Drivers often take advantage of this situation.
Melany Wahyu, account executive at a lifestyle magazine in Mampang, South Jakarta, stood in the heavy downpour for nearly an hour, trying to get a taxi. She was rushing home to celebrate her son’s birthday — but everybody else was rushing home, too. All the taxis seemed to be taken. And those that weren’t occupied just whizzed by, as if their drivers didn’t see her.
So when a taxi finally pulled up, the 37-year-old was ecstatic. Melany quickly got in and gave her address to the driver. Within five minutes, she already nodded off in the heavy traffic.
When she woke up, she was horrified to see that she didn’t recognize the road they were taking. The driver said he took that road to avoid the flooded areas. Seeing the rain and the dark that engulfed the car, all kinds of scenarios went through Melany’s mind.
“Was I another taxi robbery victim?” said Melany. “Or could it be something worse?”
When she took a look at the driver’s ID on the dashboard, her heart skipped a beat as she realized that a totally different person to her driver was pictured. Just as she was starting to panic and considered jumping out in the unfamiliar area to find another taxi in the rain, the car turned onto a familiar road and within a couple of minutes, dropped her off at her home safely.
The taxi ride to Melany’s house took less than an hour that evening.
“But honestly, it was one of the scariest moments in my life,” she said.
Melany was not exaggerating. There have been several reports of taxi robberies in the media recently. Most of the victims were women, who were usually robbed of cash, gadgets and even their life savings. Some were also assaulted before they are finally dropped off in deserted places.
“As we can see in the news, taxi crimes are escalating these days,” said Kiki Rizki, head of marketing at GrabTaxi Indonesia. “And the frequency is indeed getting alarming.”
But surely, people in Jakarta cannot avoid using taxis altogether. As long as public transportation in the capital is in a mess, taxis will remain one of the fastest and most reliable modes of transportation, especially during the rainy season.
But how can we be safe and confident when taking a taxi?
GrabTaxi Indonesia — an app available for Android, Apple and Blackberry smartphones, which allows users to order a taxi from their phones — recently launched the #TaxiAman (Safe Taxi) campaign in Jakarta.
The company will be sharing safety tips through community ads, promotional activities and roadshows in the capital.
During a recent press conference in Jakarta, GrabTaxi Indonesia shared some of its top tips.
Never use taxis with dubious reputations
“No matter how desperate you are, don’t use those with bad reputations or black licence plates,” said GrabTaxi’s Kiki.
Taxis in Indonesia should have yellow licence plates. Black licence plates are usually reserved for privately owned cars.
“Better be safe than sorry,” she said.
Book your taxi
Always book your taxi through the company’s call center or mobile app.
“This way, your taxi is always traceable,” Kiki said. “And there will be a record somewhere of the taxi’s number and the driver’s name.”
Travel blogger Marischka Prudence learned it the hard way.
“Taking a taxi is already part of our daily routine,” she said. “So, we rarely notice its licence plate or the driver’s identification.”
Just like Melany, in one of these rainy days, Marischka took a taxi that she flagged down on the street, without really noticing its licence plate number or the driver’s name. But thankfully, nothing went wrong with her ride.
The unpleasant surprise occurred at home, when Marischka realized she had accidentally left her Internet modem in the taxi.
“I called the taxi company, but they couldn’t do anything as I didn’t know the taxi’s number or the driver’s name,” Marischka said, with a bitter smile.
Never share your taxi
Taxi dispatch officers in the airports, malls and office buildings often ask the people in the queue for their destinations. Sometimes, you will find that you are going towards a similar destination with some people in the queue. He or she then might suggest that you go together in the same taxi to save some time and costs.
“Never do that,” Kiki said. “If they insist on that for some urgent reason and you sympathize with them, just let them take the taxi first.”
Always check and let someone know
Despite ordering a taxi, always check that the driver picking you up is the same one as the one pictured on the ID card on the vehicle’s dashboard.
“If they don’t match, you, as the passenger, have every right to refuse to get in,” said GrabTaxi Indonesia’s head of marketing.
If you order your ride via GrabTaxi, they have the “Share My Ride” feature, which allows you to share your exact location during the taxi ride to your loved ones via SMS, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.
But if you don’t, Marischka, the travel blogger, suggests keeping you cell phone handy and fully charged during taxi rides.
“Always have your loved ones’ numbers on speed dial, so that you can ring them as soon as you sense something wrong,” she said.
Sit diagonally from the driver
When taking a taxi alone, always try to sit diagonally from the driver.
“This way, he is always within your sight and you can notice it more easily if he does something unusual,” Kiki said.
If you are not feeling well, make sure to go with company.
“Never allow a moment in which you’re powerless [during a taxi ride],” Kiki said.
“It will be hard for you to notice anything and take care of yourself when you’re unwell or intoxicated with alcohol.”
If the driver needs to go to the toilet during the ride, always ask him to choose a safe and busy place, such as a gas station.
“And you better get out yourself and stand outside the taxi while waiting for him,” Kiki said.
For some, these tips might seem too much and troublesome to practice each time they take a taxi.
“But it’s all about habit,” Marischka said. “Once we get used to practicing these safety habits, it wouldn’t feel like an effort.”
GrabTaxi Indonesia’s #TaxiAman campaign will run until April 30.
“We’ll also organize women’s self-defense classes [during the campaign], so that women will know what to do in tight situations,” Kiki said.
For more information about the campaign, check out grabtaxi.com/jakarta-indonesia/gue-pilih-taxiaman/