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MEDIA RELEASE

PCA Asks Ministers Della Bosca, Costa and Scully to Amend Laws to Force Taxi Drivers to Wear Seat Belts
(Passenger Safety Also Seriously at Risk)

Tuesday 8 July 2003
The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby, has written to Ministers John Della Bosca, Michael Costa and Carl Scully, asking them to immediately introduce regulations which will require taxi drivers to wear seat-belts.

Mr Scruby said: “In a farcical publicity stunt, the taxi industry yesterday launched a new infants’ safety capsule which will sit on the roofs of taxis and be subsidised by advertising. This of course is a commendable road safety initiative. But what the taxi industry was not advertising is the fact that taxi drivers do not have to wear seat-belts themselves.

“This is extremely dangerous, because in the event of a crash, an unbuckled driver (or passenger) can become a lethal weapon and kill or seriously injure other occupants of the vehicle. No passenger should be forced to face this potential risk, particularly as Australians have an “egalitarian” propensity to ride in the front seat of taxis, where such risks would be greatly enhanced.

“Additionally, taxi drivers themselves spend up to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week on the road. Even if they are not the cause of a crash, because of their enormous exposure to potential crashes, they are in a much higher category of risk, which is greatly exacerbated because they do not wear seat belts. This ridiculous anomaly must be fixed immediately.

“Apart from writing to the abovementioned Ministers, the PCA will also be writing directly to WorkCover, requesting that they also investigate the matter to ensure the rules are changed so that taxi drivers (and their passengers) are provided with a safe working environment.” Mr Scruby said.

Mr Scruby added: “Seat-belt laws have been an utter farce. Following the deaths of 2 young men at Ingleside several months ago, who were killed while travelling unbuckled, in the boot of a VW Polo, we will also be asking whether the Regulations have yet been changed ensuring that motorists can only carry exactly the number of passengers in a vehicle as there are seat-belts available. We will also be asking whether the Regulations have been changed so there are now demerit points and stiff penalties for carrying passengers on the roof of a car, in the back of a utility or in a trailer.” Mr Scruby added.
(A COPY OF THE LETTER TO THE MINISTERS IS INCLUDED BELOW).

Further information:

Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO – Pedestrian Council of Australia - Tel: (02) 9968-4555 (0418) 110-011
Email: walking@walk.com.au Internet: www.walk.com.au

-----Original Message-----
From: Pedestrian Council of Australia [mailto:pca@ihug.com.au]
Sent: Monday, 7 July 2003 4:04 PM
To: The Hon Carl Scully MP; The Hon John Della Bosca MP; The Hon Michael Costa MP
Cc: The Hon John Watkins MP
Subject: Taxi drivers and seat-belts
Importance: High


The Hon Michael Costa, the Hon John Della Bosca and the Hon Carl Scully
GMT - Sydney NSW 2000

cc: The Hon John Watkins

Dear Ministers

For years, the PCA has been concerned by the extraordinary anomaly (amongst many in the ARRs),
http://www.walk.com.au/pedestriancouncil/Page.asp?PageID=540



http://www.walk.com.au/pedestriancouncil/Page.asp?PageID=548



which permits taxi drivers to drive without wearing seat-belts.

Over the years, I personally discussed the matter with one of the former D-G's of the Department of Transport (who now prefers to remain nameless) about this anomaly, on many occasions. Even he could never understand why they were given this dispensation and was equally amazed the Regulation was never changed, particularly when one considers the enormous amount of advertising the RTA puts into the wearing of seat-belts and the extremely harsh penalties for not wearing them (6 per person during holiday periods). He always claimed the position was untenable.

What makes the issue even more untenable, and this is based on the position long held by senior members of the RTA, is that if someone is not wearing a seat-belt, they can become lethal missiles within the cabin of a vehicle involved in a crash and as such cause death and/or serious injury not only to themselves, but to other occupants of the vehicles. Paul Willoughby has in fact expressed this view to me on a number of occasions and even corrected me when I have argued that one only compromises one's own safety if one does not fasten one's own seat-belt. I accept his view (except in circumstances where the offender is the sole occupant of a vehicle).

As such, even if the taxi industry could argue that their drivers may be unsafe because, in the event of an attack, they may find it difficult to unbuckle, the argument is not sustainable when a passenger or passengers are present for the reasons stated above.

But equally as important, there must be a risk assessment. It seems there has never been one undertaken. Most taxis drive 12 hour shifts, some 5 to 7 days a week. They would be on the road 30 times longer than the average motorist and their exposure to injury through a crash would be obviously many times greater than that of your average motorist. It is also far more likely that the risk of injury is far greater from the results of a crash than from an attack.

And how utterly absurd is it to see taxi drivers driving around the state, looking for fares, without any passengers, and still not wearing their seat-belts? Yet this is the law (which for reasons such as this is frequently described as an "ass").

If you look at the copy of yesterday's state road toll (attached), it is clear that drivers are at greatest risk and it is in this area that the authorities must target their awareness, enforcement and legislative strategies.

Taxis are considered to be a form of public transport, which we support. Taxi drivers have come under some severe criticism in the media recently. They must present and image which is that of safety, not only for themselves but for their passengers.

For all the reasons above, we ask that you immediately amend this regulation as soon as possible.

And of course the regulations relating to passengers in all vehicles being required to wear seat-belts at all times. The anomalous regulation which saw 2 young boys killed at Ingleside recently must be changed to state that a driver can only carry as many passengers in a vehicle as the number of seat-belts permit. It must become a very serious offence to carry any additional passengers, and in particular on the roof, in the rear of a utility and in a trailer (see above links).
Regards

Harold Scruby
Chairman/CEO

Pedestrian Council of Australia Limited
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