Wakefield takes action after illegal taxi death

In November 2003, travel agent Stephanie Hammill and her fiancé flagged what appeared to be a taxi in the centre of Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

She got in, but the driver sped off before her fiancé could get in. Stephanie managed to throw herself out of the vehicle but fell into the path of another car and was killed.

The tragedy prompted Wakefield Council to raise awareness of the risks of using unlicensed taxis.

To attract the attention of the people who use pubs and clubs – those likely to take taxis – and warn them that if they used unlicensed cabs they were putting themselves at risk. To publicise the fact that unlicensed minicabs have not been inspected and are not properly insured for use as a taxi.

Strategy and Plan
The council wanted to make sure that people knew how to check whether a taxi and its driver was registered.

The death of Stephanie Hammill brought the taxi community a lot of negative publicity, so the council worked with them from the start to allay any fears they might have had. Some of their fears stemmed from the fact that the car that ran Stephanie over after she escaped her kidnapper was – ironically – a licensed taxi. Drivers were worried that media focus on this might distract attention from the council's safety message.

Press releases were sent to local press and radio while posters, beer mats and cards were used as publicity material and given out by taxi drivers, pubs and clubs. 

Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage was limited to local press and radio and included articles in the Yorkshire Post, the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Wakefield Express. Interest from radio stations included Ridings FM, BBC Radio Leeds, Radio Aire and Galaxy FM. It was estimated that the radio coverage reached a potential two million people.

Demand by venues for the special coasters and posters outstripped initial supply, with many proprietors requesting the council for more, something the authority had not experienced with previous campaigns.

A council hotline printed in newspaper articles contributed to a 20 per cent increase in reports of illegal taxi drivers. The initiative was also linked to a StreetSafe campaign run by the Wakefield Express.

Reporter Lisa Rooks said: 'There are always horrendous problems getting taxis late at night.The campaign was part of a huge story for us. People are much more aware of the dangers now.'

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