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DO YOU KNOW THE LAW? Taxi and PHV seatbelt rules under scrutiny after refusal incident

Updated: May 6

Image credit: DALL.E (AI generated)

A recent enforcement action against a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) driver in Manchester for not wearing a seatbelt has cast a spotlight on the unique seatbelt regulations that govern the UK's taxi and PHV industry.

The incident occurred when a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Motorcycle Unit officer observed the driver without a seatbelt and advised compliance, which the driver did not follow, leading to further police intervention.

UK regulations specify that while taxi and PHV drivers must wear seatbelts when driving alone or without passengers, they are afforded specific exemptions under certain conditions.

These exemptions include situations where a driver is reversing, actively seeking passengers ('plying for hire'), or when a vehicle is occupied by fare-paying customers. The rationale behind these exemptions primarily revolves around the practical aspects of taxi operations and safety.

Only taxis are licensed and insured to ply for hire. PHVs looking for work via their apps must wear a seat belt at all times or risk falling foul of the authorities. Taxi drivers no longer plying their trade must wear their seat belts on their commute home.

It is also worth noting that taxi drivers can only ply for hire in their licensed authority. Taxi drivers must wear a seat belt at all times when travelling outside of their licensed area with no passengers onboard.

There are other exemptions. Drivers can be exempt from wearing a seatbelt on medical grounds. In such cases, drivers are required to obtain a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing’ from a doctor, which must be kept in the vehicle and shown upon request by police. This certificate is also a necessary document to inform the vehicle's insurance provider to ensure coverage is maintained under these special circumstances.

Pregnant women and disabled individuals are generally required to wear seatbelts, although exemptions are also available for them if medically justified. This often necessitates the modification of vehicles to accommodate the specific needs of disabled drivers or passengers to enhance their safety and comfort.

Despite the legal exemptions available, many taxi and PHV drivers choose to wear seatbelts, citing the obvious potential risks associated with not wearing a seatbelt. However, drivers without passenger partitions in their vehicles face a unique risk; the seatbelt could potentially be used by passengers to harm or restrain the driver. Cabbies must weigh up the risk and make a personal decision to wear a seatbelt in these cases.

The recent Manchester incident serves as a reminder of the complexities involved in regulating an industry where there are a multitude of regulations. Ongoing education and clear guidelines are essential for maintaining safety standards and compliance when accommodating the unique aspects of taxi and PHV operations.


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