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Cabbie seatbelt proposal rejected

Illawarra Mercury

Thursday 10 July 2003

A PLAN by a pedestrian group to force NSW taxidrivers to wear seatbelts was yesterday rejected by a key union.

The Transport Workers Union said such a move could endanger drivers' safety by making them more vulnerable to attack.

Wearing a seatbelt is optional for taxidrivers, but the Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) has written a letter to three NSW Government ministers seeking to change the law.

In the letter to Roads Minister Carl Scully, Transport Minister Michael Costa and Special Minister of State John Della Bosca, PCA chairman Harold Scruby said the laws put passenger safety seriously at risk.

“... if someone is not wearing a seatbelt they can become lethal missiles within the cabin of a vehicle involved in a crash and as such cause death or serious injury not only to themselves, but to other occupants of the vehicle,” Mr Scruby wrote.

But TWU organiser Raj Chaudry said it was a matter of weighing up driver safety with passenger safety.

“The idea is good in principle but (the) work of taxi drivers is not that of ordinary road drivers,” Mr Chaudry said.

“The law is there for a good reason - for safety.

“Taxidrivers may need to get out of the cab quickly if they are being attacked or to stop fare evaders, or even just to help a passenger.”

The PCA dismisses this view, describing it in the letter as “not sustainable”.

Mr Chaudry said the TWU was “supportive of anything protecting passengers”, but the driver's comfort also needed to be taken into account, given that a lot of drivers work long shifts totalling up to 12 hours.

A spokesman for Mr Costa said the minister's view was everyone in a taxi should wear a seatbelt, but he was supportive of the laws making it only optional.

Mr Scully was overseas and unavailable for comment and Mr Della Bosca could not be contacted.