Two Naples residents were killed, and five others injured, when a 2004 Ford Expedition had its tire separate from the tread, causing the driver, St. Pierre Mellien, 63, to lose control of the vehicle on I-75 in Weston.
Mellien, who died in the accident, made his living driving people to various destinations, however, he was not certified to operate a vehicle-for-hire service in his home of Collier County. Mellien, a father to seven children, was pronounced dead at the scene as first responders fought to reach him inside the vehicle.
Mellien, a Seventh-Day Adventist Church member began driving people in his native country of Haiti, helping them move or taking them to church. When he came to South Florida, he continued this occupation, though sometimes, he would drive people without pay.
Collier County only regulates pick-up services in the county, meaning that a licensed or unlicensed taxi driver from another county who drives to Collier County to drop a passenger off does not have to abide by the local regulations. In Collier County, any paid-for rides must be done through a certified vehicle-for-hire service.
Drivers must be certified by the county to make pick-ups within the county, they must have commercial drivers insurance and they must undergo background checks. Though, in Collier County many drivers operate without being certified, usually charging cheaper fees. It’s a service often used by people who cannot afford higher fares or are unable drive.
While the allure of cheaper fares for hired drivers can be attractive for those who utilize these services, it is important to inquire as to whether or not somebody who is performing a professional service, such as driving passengers, is properly licensed and insured. Even companies like Uber, who are gaining popularity locally for their convenience and low prices, are technically operating illegally in many areas. It is critical that before using these services you ensure that even if a service like this is operating outside of the bounds of the law that there will still be insurance coverage available to you in the event of an accident.