Woman’s death hastens Nashville cab changes

Livia Smith accident scene
Livia Smith was found dead in the roadway near her east Nashville home in February 2013.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When Livia Smith was found dead after striking her head on an east Nashville street where she lived last February, there was a critical question for local cabs and their drivers.

Witnesses said the young make-up artist took a taxi from a Five Points bar in the early hours of that winter night, but investigators say there’s no evidence the cab ride ever happened.

“I just don’t know how you could be put into a cab and you could be found dead later and there is no record of you being in a cab,” Metro Nashville officer Don Davidson told News 2 earlier this fall.

In the wake of Smith’s death, the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission, the agency that regulates taxis, mandated that all Nashville cabs have GPS tracking in the vehicles.

The agency had considered the decision for years, but the young woman’s still unsolved death hastened the action.

It means a system where no cab should ever be roaming the streets of Nashville again without a record.

Within the last few months, nearly all Nashville taxis have incorporated GPS into how they keep track of cabs.

On a recent morning at Yellow Cab headquarters just off the downtown area, the company’s assistant general manager showed News 2 how the new system is working.

You can see [the taxis] moving. These cars are sitting at the airport, these cars are downtown,” said Marvin Sutton as he pointed to a computer screen with little yellow cab icons dotting a computer screen.

Now, Nashville taxis, like Yellow Cab, can see where their in-service drivers are at all times.

It’s been a prickly issue for the company because some witnesses said Smith got into a Yellow Cab, or yellow-looking cab.

No records were ever found, nor did any driver remember or admit to picking up the young woman.

Investigators like Donaldson said some cab companies, without naming Yellow, had record-keeping “that left something to be desired.”

Police hope that when and where may never be a question again for a Nashville cab, but Yellow’s assistant manager says in-service drivers can turn off their GPS even though they know it would be a violation.

The issue though has come up again in the last few days with word that a Kentucky National Guard soldier was ordered out of a taxi by a Yellow Cab driver.

Allen Pendley told News 2 he had just returned in uniform from drills in Kentucky this past Sunday November 3rd when he got into a Yellow Cab.

After a few minutes during the ride, the soldier said the cabbie asked if he was in the Army.

Pendley says that after he responded “yes,” the cabbie “told him to get out.”

Yellow Cab’s Sutton said Tuesday he has not found any GPS evidence or phone logs that any of the company’s taxis were at the Nashville bus station where the soldier was picked after returning from Kentucky.

Still, no one disagrees that GPS in all cabs now will help improve safety for both passengers and drivers, but it’s not the only change in response to Smith’s death.

Nashville cabbies are required to have state-run background checks every five years.

News 2 has learned that taxi companies themselves all met together last month to back a new plan for driver background checks.

“We want a minimum of at least every two years,” Yellow Cab general manager Doug Trimble said.

“The cab companies were very free with their support of changing the way we do background checks,” said Billy Fields who is executive director of the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission. “They said if it needs to be more frequent than two years, they are ready to do that.”

Under the proposal, cabbies would continue to pay for those state-government run background checks which run about $75.

Some cabbies News 2 spoke with are okay with the idea, others not so much because of the additional cost, but one new driver may have said it best with her support for the major changes in Nashville cabs.

“There is a lot of craziness in the world today and you never can be too careful,” said driver who is one of Nashville’s few female cabbies.

Anyone with information regarding Smith’s final hours is encouraged to call 615-742-7463.

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