A common thing you'll hear in Taiwan is that a large percentage of taxi drivers are reformed criminals. Is there really any truth to this? Can a guy who just got off Green Island (known notoriously for its prison) really become a taxi driver? What percentage are really reformed criminals?
Well it's difficult to say... According to the newspapers:
"Existing laws stipulate that people with criminal records of rape, homicide, robbery or kidnapping are not allowed to apply for taxi licenses."
I think there are probably few reformed criminals in fact. However, this does not rule out the budding criminals! Many taxi drivers have a history of mental instability and violent behavior. It is well known that these taxi groups are also infiltrated by gangsters. Just pick a fight or damage a driver's car and watch all his friends show up in no time with crowbars or machetes. This fact added to the often crazy driving skills is a potent powder keg of a mixture.
I personally have had no trouble with drivers in Taipei. They are quite chatty if you strike up a conversation. Politics is an ify topic though. Also, don't assume that most drivers can't speak English. I've ridden in quite a few cabs with quite fluent drivers.
I remember a story a friend once told me about taking a cab. She was a local woman. She hailed a cab and got in. She told the driver her destination. Not too long after, he complained that he was really hungry as he hadn't eaten. Being a passive woman, she said that he could stop to get something. Once he had something, he said something along the lines of "What am I going to do? I can't drive and eat at the same time. How about you drive?" The girl, not thinking twice, drove the cab to her destination and then remarkably paid the driver! Only in Taiwan I say!