Driver, adults and children: Who wears what seat belts in a taxi?

You wouldn’t think twice about taking a licensed taxi with your children, but what are the specific seat belt laws for you, the driver and your kids? And who is responsible?

According to Stephen McCaffrey, a regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence, seat belt laws differ for all the riders in a taxi compared to your own privately owned vehicle.

First off, let's get technical and look at the driver themselves. McCaffrey suggests that taxi and private hire drivers are exempt from wearing seatbelts under the following circumstances (reg. 6 The Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993):

  • a licensed taxi while it is being used for seeking hire, or answering a call for hire, or carrying a passenger for hire, or

  • a private hire vehicle while it is being used to carry a passenger for hire.

Most importantly this exemption does NOT apply to passengers who are required to wear seatbelts.

Any person over the age of 14 MUST wear a seat belt to avoid committing a criminal offence. 

So what about the children? There’s no child or booster seats on board, can they ride?

McCaffrey says: “There is often uncertainty with regards to the rules when children do not have the correct restraint with them at the time they take a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle. 

“Under regulation 10 of the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993 provides an exemption for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles:

  • a small child aged under 3 years who is riding in a licensed taxi or licensed hire car, if no appropriate seat belt is available for him in the front or rear of the vehicle;

  • a small child aged 3 years or more who is riding in a licensed taxi, a licensed hire car or a small bus and wearing an adult belt if an appropriate seat belt is not available for him in the front or rear of the vehicle."

It’s also worth noting that, unlike adults, it is the responsibility of the vehicle proprietors or licensed driver to ensure children (anyone under the age of 14) wear the appropriate restraint for their age and length.

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