William Mizelle, driving for six years:
"I drive very little at night. I basically stay downtown. I haven't had a gun pulled on me, but then I'm selective about who I pick up--a lot of drivers are. I'd rather get a ticket than a hole in the back of my head.
I'm pretty cautious about riding young males--not two of them at the same time. I don't trust them too much. Then, I enjoy riding with an older black man more than anything. We can relate.
Neighborhoods play more of a role than youth or race. There are certain streets I stay away from. I hear from other drivers. We talk to each other. 'Hey man, be careful up on Georgia Ave. and Missouri. Guy threw a brick at me.' That happens. They'll throw bottles and that'll break your windows. And I avoid going that way. That's too expensive.
I'm going to upgrade, put up a partition. It'll cost me about $350. That's peanuts for your life."
Otis Smith, driving for more than 35 years:
"I try to pick up women and men [together] or two ladies.
I'm not afraid, because I screen my people. I won't pick up a black person at night. Because black people are their own worst enemies. You never see white people sticking up taxis.
I know a lot of drivers who carry guns.
I ain't going to Southeast for a white person or a black person or anyone. White people [who] lead you into that neighborhood--they're drug addicts.
Makes no difference whether it's right or wrong. I got to put some protection on my life."
Louis Howell, driving for 14 years:
"There are no neighborhoods I won't go to. I've been to all of them. But sometimes I won't go into a parking lot. For my safety and for their safety, I stay on the street.
Sometimes in the morning, I'm rushing, and if I'm late, I'll take a cab to work. But if I forget to take my 'face,' my taxi ID, forget it. No one will pick me up, me being a black male. I really get upset about that."
Maxwell Dyke, driving for two-and-a-half years:
"I'm afraid if I understand that my life is threatened. People get in the cab and give a destination, then two or three blocks later give a different destination. I may choose not to go.
More than five times, I've had a gun to my head. But thank God, I had money in my pocket and gave it to them.
I won't go to Southeast in the middle of the night. No good human being would like to go there to lose his life.
I can tell by your gesture, your attitude, the way you respond when you get in the car. If I feel unsafe, I might decide not to go. The alternative is to call the police, but who wants to get a $500 fine? The police cannot follow me and ensure my safety.
This business is almost 100 percent risky."