New NY Law Requires Taxi Seat Belt Use—Or Face Big Fines

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New NY Law Requires Taxi Seat Belt Use—Or Face Big Fines

After years of wending its way to Albany, a new traffic law requiring cab drivers and other commercial drivers to wear seat belts was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on October 24.

NYC Vision Zero Violations - For Cab Drivers

The law, initiated under Mayor DeBlasio’s NYC Vision Zero program, brings seat belt laws for taxi drivers and their passengers in line with existing laws for private drivers. The Vision Zero program develops rules, legislation, and communications strategies to improve traffic safety with the goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries to zero.

The new law requires that “no person shall operate a taxi or livery unless such person is restrained by a safety belt approved by the commissioner. No person sixteen years of age or over shall be a passenger in the front seat of a taxi or livery unless such person is restrained by a safety belt approved by the commissioner.”

Closing a Legislative Loophole for New York Traffic Tickets

Previously, by a quirk of definition, taxis were defined as mass transit, a category that includes buses and subways, which are exempt from seat belt requirements. While laws for private drivers and passengers have been on the books since the 1980s, taxis have been excluded despite periodic attempts to change the law. With the implementation of Vision Zero in NYC, lawmakers have become much more amenable to passing legislation designed to increase passenger safety.

“Seat belts save lives and ... this is a common sense approach to expanding their use,” Taxi and Limousine Commission chairwoman Meera Joshi said. “We’ve had a lot of success using high-tech to solve customer-service and safety challenges, but sometimes, going ‘back to the future’ to a lower-tech solution like seat belts is the answer you need.”

New York City Traffic Ticket Fines Will Be Imposed

Parents and guardians of children under the age of 16 who are not properly restrained with seat belts will received the fine. In taxis and liveries, drivers are not responsible for passengers that do not comply with the law, although, as drivers, they now have to wear seat belts themselves.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has expressed reservations about the new law due to an already competitive environment with other for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. Executive Director Bhairavi Desai raised concerns that seat belts restrain drivers too much—interfering with helping passengers and processing cash payments—and might slow down service. He acknowledged the new law will take some time for drivers to get used to, despite fears they will be targeted by law enforcement.

Passengers over the age of 16 riding in the back seat are not required to wear seat belts. The Taxi and Limousine Commission notes that 65% of passengers injured in cab crashes were not wearing seat belts.

The new law goes into effect in November 2017. Violators will face tickets of up to $100 for each violation.

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