'I just don't feel comfortable' - Ipswich teenager shares taxi experience

For some women, getting into a taxi alone can be a scary experience. This was the case for Ally Cowles in Ipswich.

For some women, getting into a taxi alone can be a scary experience. This was the case for Ally Cowles in Ipswich. - Credit: PA Wire

All allegations of inappropriate behaviour in taxis will be investigated say the council as it sets out how people can report incidents. 

It comes after a teenage girl from Ipswich shared a recent bad experience which she says has left her feeling wary of using taxis in future. 

Ally Cowles, 17, had booked a taxi to travel home after finishing her day of work experience.  

“The first thing that happened was [the driver] locked the doors,” she said. 

“He started telling me I was really, really pretty and how I looked a lot older than I am. 

“I proceeded to tell him that I was 17, and then he started telling me he had children around my age, and that he could set me up or something.” 

Ally reported her experience with the taxi company to the police but the matter was not taken any further. 

In a study released in 2021 by the Office for National Statistics, it was shown that 50% of women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home, compared to one in seven men. 

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Using a taxi can be seen as a safe alternative. 

The alleged comments, Ally said, continued “the whole way” through the 15-minute journey.  

“I felt like, I don’t know what’s happening, I just don’t feel comfortable,” she said. 

ONS data also showed that women aged 16 to 34 had experienced harassment in higher numbers than men of the same age. 

When the taxi arrived at Ally’s house, she paid the driver and locked herself inside. However, he did not drive away until her parents had arrived home, around five minutes later. 

Ally says she has not felt comfortable using a taxi since this experience. 

“I’ve been getting buses or I've been walking,” she said. 

“When I've been on my own, I've had someone on the phone with me. I got the bus home late at night the other day, and I had my sister on the phone for about an hour.” 

A spokesperson for Ipswich Borough Council said: “The council considers all allegations such as this diligently, and we investigate all complaints.  

“Where cases warrant it, the licensing committee decides if a driver should keep being allowed to continue to drive a private hire vehicle or Hackney carriage.” 

A spokesperson for the Licensed Private Hire Car Association said that overall, pre-booked minicabs, chauffeurs and taxis are “extremely safe.” 

He continued: “It is not unusual for doors to be locked for safety reasons and some cars have child / auto locks.

"It is also not unusual for taxis and Private Hire Vehicles to park where they drop for environmental and efficiency reasons. 

“Anyone who approaches the public in the street, offering a car or cab services, is acting illegally and may well be a ‘bogus cab’ or ‘illegal tout’.  

“Never get into such a vehicle or deal with someone who approaches you in the street, you could be in extreme danger.” 

Ipswich Borough Council offered the following advice to passengers to keep themselves safe: 

  • Check the vehicle is licensed - either from the app where the vehicle was booked - by checking the details match with the ones on the app or by looking at the rear plate on the vehicle which says if it is licensed as a private hire vehicle or hackney carriage.   

  • Take a photo of the plate on the vehicle. 

  • Sit in the back of the vehicle, do not sit in the front. 

  • Text a family member/friend the vehicle details. 

  • Do not feel obliged to enter into a discussion with the driver. 

  • If able to, record the conversation on your mobile phone, if you are uncomfortable with what is said. 

  • Tell the driver you are not happy with the conversation topic, if you feel able. 

  • If you are uncomfortable and in a built-up area, ask the driver to stop and leave the vehicle. Call the operator and tell them what has happened and ask for a replacement vehicle. 

  • Call 999 if you are in danger. 

  • Report the incident to the licensing team at Ipswich Borough Council. 

  • Report it to the Police via 101 or online