Lack of oversight for cab drivers leads to concerns in Pinellas County

Chamber pushing for tougher regulation

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A lack of oversight could put you at risk the next time you try to hail a cab in Pinellas County.

"You wouldn't give it a thought. You would just get in any cab," said Janina Rutherford. She and her family are visiting Clearwater from England. To her, one cab is just as good as any but in Clearwater, that may not be the case.

ABC Action News found out that anyone with a car and a taxi sticker can pick you up. There are no minimum requirements that have to be met in order to call yourself a cab driver.

"It's just a free for all," said Allen Weatherilt with United Taxi.

He says it's putting passengers at risk.

"You get in, you think that there's some type of regulations, there's somebody protecting you and there's really nobody protecting you in the city of Clearwater or even Pinellas County," said Weatherilt.

His company does background checks, drug tests, and makes sure all drivers are licensed and insured. Their cars are also routinely inspected and repaired. United Taxi follows tough guidelines, though they're not enforced.

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"What we're attempting to do is create a level playing field," said Bob Clifford, President and CEO of the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce.

Clifford says there needs to be more enforcement. He says the chamber has been talking to county commissioners about the issue for eight months and in January, he plans to present them with a list of recommendations outlining minimum requirements he feels should be met by all cab drivers.

"We certainly don't want to put anybody out of business. That's not our goal," said Clifford.

He does, however, feel every driver should be required to have insurance, a valid license, pass a drug test and a background check before they can pick someone up. He also wants there to be some kind of oversight to make sure those rules are enforced.

St. Petersburg does have an ordinance in place requiring drivers to have a public vehicle certificate, drivers permit, and proof of insurance.

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