WASHINGTON (WJLA) – Some men in the District say they are facing thousands of dollars in fines just for helping people in need, but those writing the tickets say they are actually protecting the most vulnerable citizens.
Several men park their cars outside a Safeway store in Southeast D.C. and when someone comes along with a lot of groceries, the self-proclaimed “courtesy drivers” offer to give them a ride home. The grateful passengers often give the drivers tips—something the D.C. Taxicab Commission says is illegal.
Carolyn Long often gets inside one of the cars lined up outside Safeway for a ride home and a helping hand.
“We need these people to bring us home when we grocery shop,” she said. “We have no other way of getting home.”
Courtesy driver Adeola Adegbohun has received more than $2,000 in tickets for providing an elderly woman a ride home and accepting a tip.
“She gave me two tickets for $2,000, and gave me one ticket for $100 and one for $25,” he said.
Ray Joseph also got thousands of dollars in fines for giving a grocery customer a ride and taking a tip.
“We never have any complaints for so long,” he said. “To me, I think it’s unfair.”
“We don’t charge anything,” Adegbohun said. “Some people may give you something, you know, for riding them home.”
But the D.C. Taxicab Commission sees things differently.
“There was illegal activity that this private vehicle was acting as a public vehicle for hire,” said Neville Waters, a spokesperson for the commission.
DCTC says the volunteer drivers are not always properly insured or licensed. Waters says they also don’t always have the best intentions.
“They say … ‘Oh, well, I need $10 to take your bags out of my trunk now.’ You know, there are various kinds of scams,” he said.
Carolyn Long says the help she gets carting her groceries up her stairs is well worth a small tip.
“Because they have 37 steps to go up when I grocery shop,” she said. “Often times, they got four or five bags, they got a case of water—that’s a lot.”
The D.C. Taxicab Commisison says it is working on a plan for a shared shuttle in some neighborhoods to provide senior citizens with rides to and from grocery stores and medical centers.