SINGAPORE: What should have been a routine five-minute car ride for Ms Janelle Hoeden took a distressing turn when she was allegedly subjected to racial abuse by her Tada ride-hailing driver on Saturday, Sep 23.
Ms Hoeden, a 46-year-old telemarketer, embarked on the journey from Pasir Ris Drive 6 to her sister-in-law’s home in Pasir Ris Street 12 with her nine-year-old daughter and some bedding in tow.
The incident unfolded when the driver expressed frustration over road construction related to an upcoming MRT line, escalating into a heated altercation.
In a video posted on social media, the driver is heard making comments about Ms. Hoeden’s ethnicity and her daughter’s height.
Driver alleges child height violation
In the video, which was shared on her Facebook page and by TikTok user Rhiley26746, and subsequently reposted by the alternative news outlet Wake Up Singapore, the driver, who is identified as Chinese, is seen making claims about Ms Hoeden’s daughter’s height, stating that she falls short of the 1.35-meter mark.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) website outlines safety regulations, specifying that all vehicles in Singapore must be equipped with booster seats or child restraints for passengers under 1.35 meters in height.
While taxis are exempt from this rule, private-hire cars must adhere to it, allowing passengers to request child restraints when booking a ride.
Private-hire cars, which are pre-booked, allow passengers to indicate if they need booster seats or child restraints when making their booking.
This approach provides private-hire car drivers with sufficient notice to make the necessary preparations, as noted on the LTA website.
Ms Hoeden asserts her awareness of these regulations and believes the driver aimed to fabricate a case against her for supposedly violating these rules.
Passenger recorded altercation with driver
A shouting match then ensues and Ms. Hoeden corrects him, saying: “I am Singapore Eurasian, not Indian.”
As the situation escalated, Ms. Hoeden began recording the incident, expressing concerns about her safety.
In a subsequent video she posted, the driver made a stop at a residential building and exited the vehicle.
Ms Hoeden can be heard instructing her daughter to begin recording as well, expressing her concerns to The Straits Times: “Given his verbal abuse, I was worried that he might turn physically aggressive, so I advised her to record.”
The driver is observed using his phone to point out that Ms Hoeden should remove her belongings from the car’s trunk.
Subsequently, he directs his phone’s camera towards her child, who quickly moves out of the frame.
While recording Ms Hoeden and her daughter, he repeatedly insists that she had provided him with “incorrect information.”
During this exchange, Ms. Hoeden reiterates the car’s license plate number as she continues recording.
The video concludes with a clear view of the car’s front, prominently displaying the license plate.
TADA response to complaint
Following the ordeal, Ms Hoeden reported the incident to Tada.
“Whether I was tanned skin, or Indian, or otherwise, it’s unacceptable what he said – it was totally uncalled for, that he pulled out the race card,” she said.
Her child was also shaken after the incident.
“I did not give him permission to record my child,” she added.
The ride-hailing platform Tada promptly responded by leaving a comment on Wake Up Singapore’s Instagram post.
They confirmed that they have initiated an internal investigation and reiterated their firm commitment to combat racism, discrimination, and all forms of abuse.
A Tada spokeswoman said the firm is aware of the incident, when queried by ST.
They assured the public that any actions will be taken based on the findings to ensure a swift and fair resolution.
“Remarks or comments that insinuate racial differences are in direct violation of Tada community guidelines and are not representative of our company’s values.
“We have initiated an internal investigation to fully understand the circumstances and will take all necessary actions based on our findings,” she said.
In the comment section, numerous online users rallied behind Ms. Hoeden, expressing their disapproval of the alleged racism portrayed in the video.
They criticize the driver for losing his temper while operating a vehicle, highlighting the potential dangers associated with such behaviour.
Some also disclosed their personal encounters with ill-mannered drivers, asserting that they had experienced similar situations depicted in the video.
However, not everyone holds the same viewpoint as the majority.
Some individuals suggested that the driver might have had a prior reason for his agitation.
“Something must have triggered driver’s mental state, need to hear both sides,” one user said.
Another user commented on the common lack of context in such videos, saying, “it could be the driver was provoked.”
Additionally, one user raised questions about the accusations of racism, wondering how the driver’s comments about the passenger’s appearance were inherently racist.
“He didn’t say anything about Indians.
“He only points out that she looks Indian to him,” it said.
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