Dear PoP – DC Cab Signs

call 911 taxi…?, originally uploaded by ctrl-alt-grant.


“Dear PoP,

Question for the group, why do DC cabs’ fare lights read “CALL 911 TAXI”? It pretty much says you could call 911 and get a cab, right? This makes no sense, but either does the fact that DC cabs don’t use their fare lights…”.

I think that’s actually supposed to be a safety feature for the cab drivers. If the part that says Call 911 is lit up it means that the driver is in distress and/or in the process of being robbed and that if you see it lit up you should call 911. I’d be interested to know if this has ever been used successfully or even at all.

24 Comment

  • What I want to know is why they all say “CAII 911”.

    If I ever see one lit up, I’ll probably chuckle to myself and assume the driver probably got what he deserved.

  • Interesting concept if true. However, cabs frequently have their standard light off and on, regardless of whether they have a fare. How would this distress signal be distinguishable?

  • They’re kind of useless. I’ve seen cabs a bunch of times with them on before, flagged them down, and had them realize ‘oh, didn’t know it was on.’ Don’t really bat an eye now if i see one.

  • I thought that with the switch to meters, the hood lights were configured to be on when the cab’s meter wasn’t running. Is there a second distress light up there? Or can the cab drivers independently turn the lights on and off even after the installation of the meters?

  • I saw a Metrobus flashing Call 911 once. I called 911 but I didn’t stick around to see if there was a real emergency.

  • saf

    Years ago, there was a move to require cabs to have bullet-resistant plexi between the back and front seats. The cabbies complained that it was too expensive. So they were allowed to simply get those lights, to be switched on when someone tried to rob them.


  • I think I’m with DF on this one, but I’ve always wondered why the C and the A in “CAll” are always capitalized, but the two l’s are not. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  • Yeah, I’ve seen a cop stop a cab with the 911 light on.

  • I think the “CAII 911” light is separate from the hood light – I saw a parked and empty cab once with the “CAII 911” sign flashing, but the “TAXI” light not on.

  • In other Cities (Chicago, NYC) I always thought the light bing on meant they were available for a fare…

  • I’ve called 911 twice for Metrobus but never learned of the outcome.

  • What saf said.

    The lights were introduced in 2001 in response to a wave of violence against cabdrivers. Drivers were required to install either a camera, a bulletproof partition or a distress light. Most chose the light, the cheapest of the three options.

  • “If I ever see one lit up, I’ll probably chuckle to myself and assume the driver probably got what he deserved.”

    Really, DF? Got what he deserved, just because the L’s aren’t capitalized?
    You are one cold SOB. I wonder, would you chuckle if your granny was being attacked and accidentally dialed 811? Would you say she got what she deserved when they found her dead body? Punk.

  • I’ve always thought that this was one of the dumbest ideas ever, especially given that “911 TAXI” adds up to 7 digits just like a regular phone number. With all the foreigners visiting this city, I wonder how often 911 operators receive cab requests.

  • TaylorStreetMan —
    I was thinking the same thing. Seemed a bit harsh. I never realized that all taxi drivers deserve to be assaulted. Maybe I’ll even get to see a taxi driver be ripped to shreds by some feral gang of killers. That would be awesome, apparently. I’ve learned a lot today.

  • On cabs where the farelight actually works as intended, when the driver hits a switch, the upper part of the farelight balloon will start flashing. I’ve seen a couple in the past year that were on, but the driver was clearly not in distress (sitting at a light, no one else in the cab, light changes, they drive off).

  • DC Cabs need to start accepting credit cards like every other city.

  • what checkeredpants and [email protected]:15 said.

  • I’ve also seen the “Call 911” section flashing on cabs when there obviously was no emergency, and seen the odd bus with the message flashing as well. It’s too bad some drivers aren’t more careful, because it does render the system rather inert.

    I’ve always been annoyed that taxis don’t take advantage of turning the “Taxi” light on and off when fares enter or leave the cab. It’s always a little embarrassing to flag down a cab crossing an intersection, only to realize there are people inside when it draws near. I guess the little taxi sign is becoming an artifact of a lost civilization.

  • Anon 9:15 –

    Trust me, you do NOT want cabbies here having access to your credit card info. You know the current bribery scandal – DC cab driver corruption and scamming goes much further than any investigations will find out.

  • DC cops will stop any cab that has those on. A group of friends was lined up on the side of a cab when their cabbie accidentally had it turned on.

  • Since there are so many interpretations here of what the lights mean and don’t mean, this system doesn’t seem to be working. I always call 911 when I see them on. What a waste if that is not what they mean! Clarification from police or a cabbie?

  • of course it means call 911! its not some weird code.

    if you see it, and aren’t a worthless piece of shit like DF, call 911.
    its very simply people
    it just might save someones life.

  • If you think the sign means that you should call 911 in order to get a taxi, you’re a fucking moron.

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