The owners of Flying Tuk, a low-speed vehicle taxi service, have been lobbying the city of Oxford to lower the driving age limit of vehicles-for-hire, and recently achieved a small victory.
Danny Klimetz, co-owner of the company, attended last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting and requested the age to be lowered to 18, but Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she was not comfortable making it that low. After discussion, the board came to an agreement in considering lowering the driver age to 20 and will further discuss the matter on Tuesday at a public hearing before a possible vote on May 1.
Currently, the city requires a driver to be 21 years old to operate a taxi or low speed vehicle in Oxford. Klimetz requested that age to be lowered because he’s having a hard time keeping a full staff of drivers during the spring season.
“We get a lot of senior students that drive for us, which is great, but usually come the spring semester, they need to focus more on their school work, senior projects, applying for grad school, jobs, etc.,” Klimetz said. “We find ourselves with a driver shortage and our hope with lowering the age limit is that we could appeal to a larger pool of eligible drivers.”
The company operates three-wheeled low-speed vehicles which run Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. or by appointment. The vehicles travel at a maximum of 25 mph on the Oxford streets and can fit up to six people.
Former driver for the company Je’ Michael Handy said he is in favor of the city lowering the age limit.
“While working there, there wasn’t a lot of drivers, but lowering the age could possibly increase drivers,” Handy said. “Eighteen year olds are licensed drivers just as well as 21-year-olds, and I don’t think it wouldn’t change much besides having more people that can make shifts easier.”
Klimetz said his nearly 2-year-old company has about 10 drivers on staff at the moment, but in the fall that number is usually around 20 to 25 drivers. Fridays and Saturdays are usually the busiest days with up to five tuks on the road, depending on the weather and what events are going on in town.
Tolley Yoste, a junior marketing major said she loves riding with the Flying Tuk due to its fun experience and cheap prices, but does worry about the age being lowered.
“I don’t necessarily know if I would trust an 18-year-old driving me around on a Flying Tuk,” Yoste said. “It kind of does scare me in a sense because I’m wondering if they really are responsible enough for that.”
As an owner, Klimetz said he understands the concern with lowering the age to 18, but said he would be happy with whatever the board decides to lower it to.
“We are very selective as a company as to who we trust with our vehicles, but more importantly who we trust with our passengers,” Klimetz said. “I think just because someone is ‘younger’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be riskier or more immature. There are 18-year-olds out there who I would trust a lot more then some 30-year-olds.”
Junior integrated marketing communications major Shea Young said lowering the age will make the overall experience of riding with the Flying Tuk even better.
“I think it’s a good idea to lower the age limit because college students or younger adults are just as familiar with the Oxford area as older drivers are,” Young said. “We always have to tell our Ubers how to get to the destination even though they have the route in their phone, which is annoying.”