LOCAL taxi drivers say the implementation of rules that require them to wear seatbelts will force a change in habits.
Many of Tamworth’s cab drivers – it’s estimated there are between 60 and 70 based in and around the city – don’t wear a seatbelt on in-town jobs, according to Tamworth Radio Cabs secretary Brian O’Sullivan.
Mr O’Sullivan said drivers doing regular runs in town often failed to buckle up, because they spent so much time jumping and and out of their cabs to help customers.
“Often it’s easier to leave it off, because they like to lend a hand and offer assistance to the passenger,” he said.
“Without the belt on they can jump out, unload the groceries and jump back in quite quickly.”
Mr Sullivan’s comments follow an announcement by the NSW government that a long-standing exemption on cab drivers to wear seatbelts would soon be removed.
“Driver safety is always our paramount concern,” Mr Sullivan said.
“But in terms of which safety we’re talking about, this change puts us between a rock and a hard place.”
He said local drivers and those in metropolitan areas often left their seatbelts off, in case they needed to vacate the cab quickly.
He said recent violent attacks on Sydney cab drivers provided good evidence as to why not wearing a seatbelt could prove safer.
“They can act a bit like a trap if you need to get out quickly,” he said.
On the other hand, Mr O’Sullivan said the implementation of a rule requiring cabbies to wear seatbelts without exemption was always inevitable.
“We have known for a long time they would be brought in eventually,” he said.
“I guess for most drivers, who aren't in the habit of wearing their belts now, it will be a matter of remembering.”