NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – An unlicensed taxi driver was arrested early Wednesday morning at Soria Taxi for assault by automobile after striking a pedestrian, Guillermo Acosta, at the corner of Pearl and Somerset streets around 6:30 a.m. After 49-year-old Francisco Jiminez-Perez struck the pedestrian he drove the man home to Park Place.
Although obligated to do so under the law, Jiminez-Perez did not report the accident to the police and returned to the Soria Taxi office.
The pedestrian, who had contusion to his head and a swollen face, called the police and told them about the accident. After a short search, police officer Christopher Brid found Jiminez-Perez at the Soria office at 140 Somerset St. and placed him under arrest.
Acosta was taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for treatment.
Jiminez-Perez was charged with assault by auto, leaving the scene of an accident, careless driving, failure to report an accident, and failure to yield to a pedestrian. Both Jiminez-Perez and Soria Taxi were issued summonses for operating without a license and will have to report to municipal court. There is no set fee or penalty for driving a taxi without a license, which means the judge sets the penalty. Chief of Police William Parenti says the usual fine issued is $75 plus court fees.
Taxis are the subject of many complaints by residents of North Plainfield, though few report their complaints to the police.
“I’ve noticed certain drivers ignoring traffic signals, making California (rolling) stops or driving through gas stations to avoid waiting in traffic lines,” said North Plainfield resident Nick Tantaros.
Kevin O’Connor had a bad experience as a passenger. “I had a young cab driver driving a stick (manual transmission) while texting while we were on Route 22,” said O’Connor. “They really don’t pick me up anymore.”
Lisa Coolidge-Ellis and Jessica Lee, who both drop their kids of at school each morning, say that the taxis make it unsafe in the mornings.
“They are bad at Somerset School,” said Coolidge-Ellis. Somerset School is on the corner of Somerset Street and Park Place, about four blocks north of the accident site.
“Dropping kids off at school,” sad Lee. “They almost hit me walking in the cross walk.”
Taxis in New Jersey are regulated by municipal ordinance, and not by the state. The North Plainfield ordinance defines a taxi as any car with a base of operations in the borough that carries passengers for hire, in particular picking people up or dropping them off. People or companies wanting to operate taxis in North Plainfield have to pass a background check and be cleared by the Police Department.
All taxi cab drivers also have to be approved by the chief of police. No one who has been convicted of a violent crime, DWI or drug offense; have a recent history of repeated traffic violations; lied on their application; or been convicted of anything the Police Chief thinks would adversely affect their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Fingerprinted background checks are mandatory.