Taxi and private hire drivers could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks under government proposals.
The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on new licensing guidelines to better protect vulnerable passengers.
The consultation will also consider whether cabs and private hire vehicles should be fitted with CCTV.
Last year a government report found that the laws regulating drivers were not “fit for the modern world”.
Powers to regulate taxi drivers have been devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Assembly.
Although the proposed guidelines would apply only to England, they are also expected to be used in Wales until the devolved Welsh Government sets its own statutory guidelines.
In each nation, taxi drivers are actually given their licences by local authorities, who have first to decide whether they are a “fit and proper person – apart from in Northern Ireland, where this is the responsibility of the Department for Instrastructure.
The Department for Transport also says it will introduce national minimum standards for drivers and set up a national licensing database.
In England and Wales, the current system allows someone who is denied a taxi licence by one local authority to go and work somewhere else where the licensing authority may be more lenient.
The Department for Transport is also considering stopping taxi drivers from operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.
In Scotland, private hire vehicles can already only pick up fares within the local authority area which gave them their taxi-operating licence.
Taxis minister Nusrat Ghani said: “While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.
“These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.”
Saskia Garner, of the anti-violence charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, told Radio 5 Live she was “encouraged” by plans to update safety checks guidelines but said new laws – not just guidelines – were needed to protect passengers.
The proposals follow the case of “black cab rapist” John Worboys, who police believe may have carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women he picked up in his cab in London between 2002 and 2008.
He was jailed in 2009 for 19 offences including rape, sexual assault and drugging his victims and his case made headlines after the High Court overturned the decision of the Parole Board to release him after 10 years of his sentence.
Last year it emerged that taxi licences were being issued during private hearings to drivers convicted of crimes including child sex offences and reckless driving.
The consultation will run until 22 April.