Anyone with a car can drive an illegal ghost taxi. In Baltimore, operating a ghost taxi is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail. There are, however, too many ghost taxis to be effectively shut down. Baltimore authorities cannot afford to spend the time and money required to do so, given the other, more serious crimes upon which they have to concentrate.
This type of taxi is not unique to Baltimore. In different cities, states, and countries, these taxis are called by different names.
To better understand the difference between licensed taxis and ghost taxis, consider that licensing usually requires:
- A Maryland Department of MVA inspection of the vehicle
- A Maryland Driver’s License
- A county level license to operate a taxi
- Additional requirements by individual taxi companies
You will have less confidence that the driver without a license:
- Is a good, experienced driver
- Has no significant criminal record
- Is of good moral character
- Has no drug or alcohol abuse problems
- Is identified by a displayed, passport sized photograph, which is verified by his fingerprints
- Has a safe vehicle
- Has Personal Injury Protection insurance appropriate for a taxi
- Has telephone dispatch records of his rides
- Has a fare meter, which can help to mediate fare disputes
- Is monitored by and answerable to a supervisor
Here, however, are some reasons, why people use ghost taxis:
- They may be the only taxis available at various locations and times.
- They often are cheaper than licensed taxis.
- They often do not enforce a smoking ban.
If you decide to use a ghost taxi, you should:
- Copy down the vehicle’s license number and phone it to friend.
- Ask a dangerous driver to let you out in a safe location, and then pay him whatever fare you already have agreed upon.
- Call 911, if you feel as if you are in danger and cannot get out of the vehicle.
- Ride constantly with a driver who has earned your trust.
In the space below, please share your experiences with ghost taxis.