Taxi drivers take the "buckle up" message

SEATBELTS are now a must for NSW taxi drivers, despite more than 40 years of exemption to a rule governing the rest of Australian drivers.

Across the state taxi drivers have been stirred-up by the legislation, which they believe to be in serious violation of their right to safety.

But for the most part local taxi drivers have made their peace with the law change, said Steve Read manager of Port Macquarie Taxis.

Mr Read said the law change was inevitable and taxi drivers were given pre-emptive notice.

“It was going to come around eventually,” he said. “We were the last state in Australia exempt from the laws”.

He said some veteran taxi drivers had problems with the thought of being buckled-up, but most had made their peace by now.

“There’s a little bit of rustle among the troops but at the end of the day, it’s legislation,” he said.

Some 500 taxis reportedly drove from Sydney Airport to the city centre on Monday morning to rally against the new law.

Mr Read said the safety benefits outweighed the dangers when driving in the Hastings, especially on long haul drives.

“City-based drivers may have a few more concerns. I know I’d be a bit more worried about a lot of things driving around in Sydney compared to sleepy Port Macquarie.”

Mr Read said violent attacks targeting taxi drivers were “extremely rare” in Port Macquarie.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said the law would increase not only driver, but passenger safety.

Particularly in the case of a side impact, where an unrestrained driver could be thrown across the vehicle.

“Less than two per cent of all NSW motorists injured in a crash are not wearing a seatbelt, but among taxi drivers the figure is 40 per cent,” the spokesperson said. 

“We want to make sure taxi drivers are as safe as anyone else.”

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