D.C. Taxicab Commissioner Sandra Seegars recommends that taxicab drivers refuse to transport passengers based on how they are dressed or on the neighborhood they are coming from or going to ["For Cabbies, Judging Fares Isn't Simple," Courtland Milloy, Jan. 15]. She recommends that drivers refuse to transport "dangerous looking" people and stay out of "dangerous neighborhoods."

Ms. Seegars describes a "dangerous looking" individual as a young black male with his hat on backward, shirttail hanging below his coat, baggy pants below his underwear and unlaced tennis shoes. She defines a "dangerous neighborhood" as "out there by 59th and East Capitol Streets," where she urges taxicab drivers not to go.

Ms. Seegars's stereotyped views are her own, and her recommendations are contrary to D.C. law and commission policies. Drivers cannot refuse to transport passengers because of their attire or the point of origin or destination of the trip. Commission rules provide that:

"No taxicab operator shall refuse to transport an individual based upon race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibility, political affiliation, disability, source of income, [or] place of residence or business."

Any taxicab driver following Ms. Seegars's recommendations would be subject to a $500 fine and license suspension or revocation.

The commission is aware of the difficult responsibility drivers bear in providing service on a nondiscriminatory basis. Commission rules also provide drivers with reasonable measures to protect themselves: Drivers may refuse to transport a person if they have reason to believe the person is engaged in a violation of the law or if they have cause to fear injury to their person, property or taxicab. Taxicabs also may be equipped with a partition between the front and rear seats. The commission, at its Feb. 1 meeting, will consider whether to make safety partitions mandatory. Statistics show that crimes against drivers are reduced when partitions are installed.


Interim Chairperson

D.C. Taxicab Commission