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Saying Sorry Goes a Long Way

NYC cabbies have historically been classified as the epitome of bad driving. In addition to inciting their fair share of road rage, many are of the view those drivers would side-swipe your grandmother to pick-up a fare. But, over the last few years, the group has faced considerable challenges; primarily due to ride-sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft, which offer (for the most part) a much more pleasant, and a slightly more personalized, experience. (But these latter drivers don't always act like angels, either.)

In a recent decision issued by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, an Uber driver’s suspension was lifted after a dispute with another motorist ended in blows. “BL” had been an Uber driver for approximately 3½ years, when on September 26, 2020, he collided with another car while finishing up a ride. Before confronting the other driver, BL apologized to his passengers and told them he would have to stop the trip and let them out – a decision that would later turn out to be a smart move on his part.

The other motorist, apparently sporting a “smug look on his face,” got out of his car and refused to admit fault, at which point BL punched him in the back of the head, sending him to the hospital. Although no serious injuries were reported, the police arrested BL, and he was issued a Desk Appearance Ticket shortly after.

"BL" told Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner that striking the other driver was “the worst mistake he had ever made,” and expressed deep remorse for the incident. He professed that he had been under an enormous amount of financial stress due to COVID and was about to lose his apartment and become homeless at the time the incident occurred, which is why he acted so recklessly.

ALJ Spooner took pity on the poor guy and accepted the explanation. Spooner was of the view the behavior was an aberrant reaction, and that BL was not “a direct and substantial threat to public safety.” The judge further noted: “Overall, I was favorably impressed by respondent’s honest demeanor in reflecting on his actions and by his sincerity in ensuring his passengers’ welfare.” It was also determined that the month-long suspension – during which BL could not operate as a driver – was a sufficient financial deterrent to ensure the behavior would not recur.

While COVID is certainly stressing us all out, this outcome reinforces that it’s always best to use one’s head … rather than smacking the back of one.