New seat belt law causes confusion for cab company - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New seat belt law causes confusion for cab company

Sophia Chang Sophia Chang
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A new law took effect on Monday requiring all passengers in a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. However, if you're in the back seat of a taxicab and you refuse to wear a seat belt, who's liable for the ticket?

The answer to that was still unclear Friday. It's just one of the issues taxi companies are struggling with since Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the law, which requires all back seat passengers to buckle up.

That would include children. But a separate state law said they don't need a booster seat in taxis. But Charley's Taxi didn't know that Thursday night, when it refused service to seven families who were told they needed boosters.

"Does the driver just take the passengers and risk a 92 dollar ticket for every child that is not in a car seat? Or say, 'sorry, we can't take you, it's against the law?" said Sophia Chang, assistant manager in charge of dispatch operations at Charley's Taxi.

It's been a real dilemma based on a misunderstanding. Charley's has about 20 child and booster seats available, which riders can have for a fee. Until Honolulu Police clarified the law to them Friday afternoon, it was a nightmare for dispatchers.

"'Oh no, we ran out of car seats in this area. Okay, we gotta bring some more car seats back here. Okay so-and-so driver, you just finished your run. Bring back those car seats. We need them!' That kind of thing."

The new law says there are exemptions. A subsection of Hawaii Statutes includes commercial vehicles, which means that taxicabs are still exempt from child car seat requirements. But what about adults?

"It doesn't say that taxicabs are excluded. It says the driver is not responsible, will not get ticketed. But the passengers without seat belts, things like that. Will they get ticketed? We're not sure," said Chang.

The company said its lawyers are looking to the matter to make sure their drivers aren't hit with the ticket.

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