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New York City's safest cabdrivers join TLC's honor roll

Nearly 500 drivers were honored for their sterling record on the road.

Cabdriver Ali Abubakar, 43, receives a Safe Driver

Cabdriver Ali Abubakar, 43, receives a Safe Driver award from Meera Joshi, the city's taxi and limousine commissioner, at a ceremony in Manhattan on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Patience is not lost on Ali Abubakar among the hustle of a New York rush hour.

A yellow-cab driver from the South Bronx, Abubakar, 43, was one of 493 professional drivers the city honored Wednesday for their sterling driving record. Abubakar completed 10,830 trips between 2016 and 2018 without a single moving violation, crash involving injury or city safety violation.

His secret of navigating chaotic city streets: patience and faith.

“When you are patient you can accept delay or frustration without getting upset or angry,” said Abubakar, a poised driver, father of six and faithful Muslim who hails from Ghana. “You have a sense of calm and peace that allows you to focus on the task at hand without getting annoyed.”

“Patience can lead to everything in life,” he continued.

Safe fleets, bases and drivers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles were also toasted at the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s fifth annual Vision Zero Honor Roll ceremony — a moment of celebration for a drastically changing and trying industry that has experienced a huge growth in e-hail services, such as Uber and Lyft, leaving many drivers across sectors economically depressed.

“It’s your tireless attention to the rules of the road and what’s happening on the road that is the difference between life and death,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the audience at the ceremony in Manhattan’s financial district.

The civic duty of safe driving extended beyond traffic laws for Thierno Diakhate, 33, who helped police catch a bank robber trying to make a getaway in his cab this summer.

“It’s a stressful job sometimes; You never know who you’re going to get in your cab,” Dikhate said, shrugging off his good deed celebrated Wednesday. “I’m just trying to help make the city safe. That’s my goal.”

Hazzem el-Sisi was honored for his work serving riders in wheelchairs, a task the TLC at large is still struggling to accomplish. Since beginning to drive a wheelchair-accessible vehicle in May, el-Sisi completed more than 100 accessible trips. El-Sisi, who has Erb’s Palsy, said his paralysis inspired him to serve others.

“For me, I like to help people. One day or another we’re all going to get old and we’re going to need the help of another,” said el-Sisi, 45, of East Elmhurst, Queens.

Twenty-seven taxi, livery and van bases were honored for recording low crash rates among their affiliated vehicles, including Ann Service Corporation, a taxi fleet that has been operating out of Chelsea for 89 years.

Victor Chiofolo, a former driver and now manager of the fleet, said the business cultivated a sense of safety by rewarding drivers for their good records. In January and July, drivers who go six months without a crash are offered discounts on future lease fees — sometimes up to a week’s worth of shifts.

“It can be a great incentive for the drivers to be much more careful when they’re out there,” he said.

The event came as the city grapples with a tragic series of driver suicides that advocates have linked to financial hardships within the industry. The city this summer passed a law to temporarily cap the number of e-hail vehicles on the road and is now working to establish minimum base pay for those drivers, among other resources.

Raul Ampuero, whose 9-year-old son, Giovanni, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in May, thanked the attendees for their careful driving. Ampuero, a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Street, had personal advice for drivers who might be working six days a week because of the economics of the industry.

“I understand you guys need to provide for your family, but I’ll give you small advice: You guys should spend time with your families because family is the most important thing in life,” he said. “Because I did that with my son, Giovanni.”

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