NSW cabbies protest seatbelt law
NSW taxi drivers protest against seatbelt laws which they have been exempt from for 41 years, but are now required to "clip their trip".PT1M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2cpbf 620 349 January 14, 2013
An estimated 500 taxis drove from Sydney Airport to the city on Monday morning to protest against a new law requiring drivers to wear seatbelts.
The drivers claim the law, which takes effect on Monday, leaves them more vulnerable to being attacked by passengers.
The president of the NSW Taxi Drivers Association, Anne Turner, said it was sad that the drivers' message had to be heard through the media instead of in numerous attempts to talk to the government about the laws.
Protest ... taxis line up in the CBD. Photo: Edwina Pickles
"They're not listening to our voice. We want our drivers to escape freely if and when they are attacked by passengers," Ms Turner said.
"The only way we can get them to listen is by doing a convoy to stand up for our drivers' safety," she said.
NSW taxi drivers had been exempt from compulsory seatbelt laws for 41 years. But they are now required to "clip their trip".
But some drivers feel this would not enhance their safety.
Gabbie Shahrouk, a 45-year-old Sydney taxi driver from the western suburbs, has been driving for two years and has been attacked three times in 18 months.
With a wife and five children, his safety means having the money to provide for his family. He feels distressed and anxious about wearing a seatbelt.
"I'm afraid for my safety, I want to be able to escape if there's an attempt of theft, or if I'm in danger, like being attacked by a customer, or strangled by the belt," Mr Shahrouk said.
In the 2012/2013 festive season, according to Ms Turner, more than seven assaults on taxi drivers had been recorded while no accident had been reported in the same time period.
According to the general manager of the Centre for Road Safety, Marg Prendergast, there have been 5000 car crashes in the last decade, resulting in 6800 injuries and 34 deaths, seven of which were taxi drivers. Ms Prendergast said that the change in the law is to improve safety for both the driver and the front passenger.
"We’ve got two risks at play; the crash risk and the security risk. The crash risk is great and a seatbelt helps avoid serious injuries, skull fractures, chest and pelvic injuries. The exemption was in place because of the fear of personal security.
"However not wearing a seatbelt is not one of the strategies that they [taxi drivers] use to avoid assault. What we know is that things we’re rolling out such as prepaid fares, secure taxi ranks, in-vehicle cameras and improved taxi driver training are far better measures to address those security concerns of taxi drivers," Ms Pendergast said.
According to Ms Turner, 2000 taxi drivers have signed a petition against the new law, and more convoys are scheduled to occur twice a week, every Monday and Friday morning, until a resolution to the matter is achieved.