'You pray you come back home': drivers talk about dangers of the transporation industry

Caresse Jackman talks to drivers about the dangers being a taxi, Lyft or Uber driver.

NEW ORLEANS -- It's become a common and sometimes deadly occurrence.

People working for Uber, Lyft or taxi cab companies have been targeted while just doing their job.

Anytime Isiaq Balogun hops in his taxi cab, driving strangers to their destination, his final ride home is always on his mind.

"When you come out of your house, you pray to come back home," Balogun said. "Not to send your body back to your family." 

It's a fear all too common for men and women working in transportation.

"This kind of job, you see all kinds of different passengers," he said. "You can tell, they will come with an attitude with you. Some of them will start calling you call kinds of names."

Some experiences are worse than just verbal attacks. Sheree Kerner lost her brother nearly six years ago in Terrytown.

"My brother picked up a passenger," Kerner recalled. "He brought him across the river. He was trying to jump out and run, but he couldn't get out of the cab. He unloaded 12 bullets into my brother's back."

The past few years, there have been numerous cases of violence against taxi and Uber drivers.

Early Monday, two men attempted to carjack an Uber driver in Mid-City near Bayou St. John. Despite an Uber policy prohibiting drivers carrying weapons, the driver shot at the suspects, injuring one of them.

In December, an Uber driver opened fire on a would-be carjacker near the French Quarter. Instead of hitting the suspect, the bullet grazed a hotel bell man.

MORE: Bystander wounded by gunfire in attempted carjacking

In May 2014, a taxicab driver was killed during an armed robbery in Gretna.

Since her brother's murder, Kerner has pushed for tougher legislation and protection.

"I did go to the State Capitol and lobby to get the death penalty for taxi driver murderers," she said. "And now that's posted in the back seat. And to be honest with you, since the cameras and the death penalty sign has been put into the backseat, in the city of New Orleans no taxi drivers have been murdered."

Kerner said while the death penalty law is good, it is not enough. She is trying to pass other measures through the City Council that will protect her drivers while they are in their vehicles.

"I'm lobbying to try to get them to remove or change the language in the ordinance that says every cab has to be equipped with a silent alarm," she said. "Because it doesn't really address the level of service that anybody who is monitoring that. And unfortunately, there are people who are taking advantage of that and not providing a good level of service, and I doubt seriously that if anybody pressed the button, someone would be there to respond."

Instead, Kerner has been looking into innovative apps and tools for better protection.

"This thing is called 'We're Safe,' basically it's a key tag that connects to an app on your phone, Kerner said. "When I press it, it's actually texting my loved ones. It's emailing them and it's bringing up apop-upp on the screen. So they can make a decision whether they need to call 911. It sends them the GPS location and it sends every sixty seconds audio of us talking so they can hear if it's a real life situation."

She hopes these tools and resources for drivers makes the difference between life and death.

"Each time that you go on our job, it is what it is," Balogun said. "You have to be prayerful."

 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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