Working seat belts in taxis not required
We took a taxi home from the airport recently and found it did not have seat belts in the back seat. When we brought this to the driver's attention, he said customers were always disabling them. This is not the first time this has happened. I realize that sometimes seat belts get pushed under the back seat cushions, but we always try our best to retrieve them, sometimes unsuccessfully. Is there no regulation that says taxicabs have to provide customers with functioning seat belts? If not, this is a safety issue that should be addressed.
Answer: There is no taxicab regulation that specifies functioning seat belts.
However, seat belts are among the items that are supposed to be checked during annual motor vehicle safety inspections.
If a cab's seat belts are not functioning, the vehicle should not have passed the annual inspection, according to an official with the state Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Safety Division.
He pointed to Section 19-133.2-35 of the department's Administrative Rules, which requires inspectors to check for missing seat belts.
"In addition to the safety check, taxicabs get another inspection that addresses their domes, meter, seal, general condition of the car, business license, etc.," he said.
Taxicabs undergo this annual inspection prior to the issuance of their taxicab business license, said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division.
Complaints about cabbies are handled by the city. By providing the Taxi Control office with information about the cab, you can ensure that its seat belts are checked at the time of this annual inspection, Kamimura said.
Complaints can be sent to Taxi Control, P.O. Box 30350, Honolulu, HI 96820-0350; or faxed to 735-1014.
Meanwhile, it might surprise you to know that a cabdriver is not required to use a seat belt if "he is performing a bona fide metered taxicab service" and carrying passengers (Section 291-11.6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes).
That provision was made after representatives of a cabdrivers association testified at the state Legislature that there are times when a driver needs to be able to escape from his or her vehicle quickly, the Department of Transportation official explained. "For example, when a passenger assaults the driver."
If a cabbie is driving without passengers, he is required to be belted.
Q: My husband's disabled parking placard is torn, so we went to a satellite city hall to get a replacement. However, they said we had to pay $15 to get a replacement. Is this right? I thought you said you could get a second placard for free ("Kokua Line," May 21).
A: At the time you are issued a permanent disabled parking placard, you can get a second placard for free.
However, replacements for lost, stolen or mutilated placards require a fee, in accordance with Section 291-52.6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Kamimura said.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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