Taxi drivers need to bone up on child safety seat regulations
by Mike Beggs
The provincial rules for child safety seats in Toronto taxis and limos have been a recurring issue over the years.
And it appears at least some cabbies may need a refresher course.
Veteran owner/operator Gerry Manley relates that he recently completed a fare where a taxi driver had refused to take a passenger because she had three small children and no child safety seats for them.
According to Manley, this is not the first time he has taken customers who were wrongly refused service for this reason.
“Taxi drivers, and the companies they may drive in are not required to provide child safety seats (under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act)” he stresses. “This lady should not have been refused service. Since all three children were under eight years of age, they were not required (to use safety seats), or to be seat-belted in, either.”
“The mother in this case did not request child safety seats, she just wanted to get home. It was the driver that refused to service her, because she didn’t supply them,” he continues. “What the measurements for this lady’s children were is irrelevant in this case, as they were not required.”
The Province implemented stricter seat belt laws in 2009. Since then, under the Highway Traffic Act, kids under eight, who weigh less than 80 pounds (36 kg.) and are under 4-foot-9 (145 cm.) tall riding in private vehicles must be secured in an appropriate child seat, or booster seat. Once those limits are surpassed the child only needs to wear a seatbelt. Toddlers weighing 20 to 40 pounds (9 to 18 kg.) must be secured in a forward-facing child seat, with a tether strap. Infants up to 20 pounds (9 kg.) must be in a rearward-facing infant seat.
Taxis and limos were granted an exemption from these laws, due to the highly specific nature of child restraining seats. But, cabbies must abide by normal child seat booster and seat belt laws when carrying their own, or others kids for personal use, or when under contract with a school board for the transportation of children.
Contrary to popular belief, taxi fares must wear seat belts, and violators aged 16 and over can be ticketed. Child passengers under 16 aren’t legally required to use a seatbelt. For safety, a parent or caregiver can bring their own child seat or booster seat.
Under provincial law, taxi drivers may be unbelted when transporting fares. This exemption was granted to enable their escape from the driver’s seat, in the event of a robbery or attack.
When the province toughened up these laws in 2009, Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards took it upon itself to review this long-running issue again, much to the consternation of cab industry leaders.
In the December 2009 issue of Taxi News, (recently deceased) driver Louis Seta noted this issue was clearly outside of the City of Toronto’s jurisdiction, because taxis and limos had been granted an exemption under provincial legislation. And he suggested the City should be wary about planning any changes, because, “according to police statements, an improperly installed child restraint is of greater danger than a non-existent one.”
Toronto Independent Taxi Inc. president Mike Tranquada observed that most drivers could go through a whole year without getting even one safety seat request, making it an item, “not worth talking about.”
“(And) we can’t be carrying car seats around for all kinds of different sizes (for newborns, toddlers, etc.)” he added. “Where are you going to put them? The cabs are getting smaller.”