PARTYGOERS and festive revellers are being reminded of the danger of bogus taxi drivers.

While no reports of such drivers have been received this year, the licensing team at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is warning passengers to check that a vehicle is licensed before stepping in.

Council officers say they know from previous campaigns that there is a lack of understanding about "taxis" and what passengers should look for before they get into a car.

There are two types of licensed "taxi" vehicles in the borough – hackney carriages and private hire cars. Most people think that both vehicle types are simply 'taxis' that can be hired immediately by asking the driver.

Hackney carriages, recognisable by their bright yellow taxi light, are found at the taxi ranks in Basingstoke town centre at Festival Place, Caston’s Yard, Joices Yard, Church Street and the railway station. They can be hailed in the street when their yellow "taxi" light is illuminated and can also be booked.

Private hire cars must always be booked through a licensed operator. They must also display licence plates, front and back, and have a "No Booking, No Ride" sticker on the side doors.

If this identification is not visible then people are urged not to get into the car as it will not be licensed and therefore will not be insured to take them home, putting them at risk. Passengers can also ask to see the driver's private hire badge, which displays a photograph, licence number and date of expiry of licence.

Councillor Diane Taylor, chairman of the Licensing Committee said: “Young people in particular often seem to be unaware of the importance of booking only a properly licensed private hire car. This is the only way of ensuring that they get home safely. Failing to do this puts them at the prey of bogus drivers.” She said such bogus drivers may have criminal motives, quite apart from being uninsured.

She added: “The message we want to get across to as many people as possible this festive season is the importance of always taking a licensed taxi from a rank or booking a private hire pick-up in advance. All licensed drivers, vehicles and operators have been thoroughly vetted by the council.”