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September 19, 2009

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Cabbie fined as he rushes mom to maternity

THE recent experience of a Shanghai taxi driver provides new proof for the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

After picking up a woman who was in the process of giving birth, the cabbie ran four red lights on fairly deserted streets to rush her to the hospital for delivery. She gave birth to a healthy boy, but the cabbie is now nursing a depleted wallet.

Though his company gave him a reward for his potentially life-saving effort, it was not nearly enough to pay the fines or cover the business loss for the time spent on the mission. And the newborn's dad doesn't seem interested in making sure the cabbie at least breaks even.

The good news is that the police said they might relent on the fines. And no matter what happens in the end, the driver was happy with the way things turned out.

"I just want to do good things," said Zhang Genbao, a 53-year-old employee of Shanghai Dazhong Taxi Co. "I don't care about the money very much."

The drama began early Thursday when Zhang was flagged down in Minhang District's Zhudi Town by Yang Fan, who asked him to take his pregnant wife to a hospital. Yang, the mother-to-be and Yang's mother got into the cab and left for the Shanghai No. 6 People's Hospital in Xuhui District at around 5:40am.

Yang's wife, who still had about two months to go in her pregnancy, was seeking treatment for stomach pains. But as they drove toward the hospital, she began to give birth, and the head of the child emerged.

Zhang comforted the nervous family and told Yang to call the hospital and tell doctors to prepare for a delivery. He put on his flashing lights, hit the gas and ran several red lights, though he said he made sure no other cars or pedestrians were in the intersections. Because of the early hour, there was little traffic, he said.

They reached the hospital at about 6am, and Zhang waited there until 9am when he learned that the mother had delivered the baby boy and both were in good health.

Coming up short

Zhang then went back to the taxi company to clean his cab and returned to duty in the afternoon.

Caught on surveillance cameras, he learned he had been fined 600 yuan (US$88), but his company offered to give him a 200 yuan reward.

"I earned only 500 yuan that day," Zhang said. "I can usually make at least 900 yuan."

Though suffering an estimated 800 yuan loss, Zhang said he would not ask the family for compensation.

New father Yang told Shanghai Daily he had given the cabbie his phone number but had no plan to call him because he was too busy.

"People who do good things should at least not suffer a loss," said Li Ming, a lawyer and a deputy of the Shanghai People's Congress.

"It may discourage initiative if doing good things not only fails to bring reward but actually incurs losses."

Traffic police said the fines might be waived if they confirm the life-saving nature of ride.

But officers also said they don't encourage drivers to violate traffic laws and recommend they instead call police or an ambulance in an emergency.


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