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December 24, 2012

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Poll: Cabs' seat belts hidden, dirty, broken

A STORY about the ongoing taxi safety-belt checks triggered a heated debate among Shanghai Daily readers, some of whom questioned whether seat belts in the back of cabs actually would do any good anyway.

An online poll on showed that 60 percent of respondents said they rarely see safety belts in the backs of cabs.

"We have used taxis for eight months - with our two young children - and the only taxi that has ever had seat belts is the Expo taxi," wrote Yvonne McNulty, a Shanghai Daily reader, referring to taxis used during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

"Not even one of the non-Expo taxis has ever had a functioning seat belt - and we all know that Expo taxis are in short supply," McNulty said.

Without safety belts, many readers said they had experienced small accidents such as hitting the front seat with their body when taxi drivers slammed on the brakes.

Local traffic authorities reiterated yesterday that nearly 90 percent of the cabs of big taxi companies have safety belts, but they admitted some might be dirty or hidden beneath the seats.

Officials said they require taxi drivers to take out the belts, warning that fines will take effect soon.

Saiping Tso, who has been in Shanghai for four months, found many local taxis have a white cloth seat cover that totally covers the back seat.

"Even if you could find the seat belt above your shoulder, you can't buckle it in because you can't access the socket, which is hidden underneath the seat cover," Tso wrote to Shanghai Daily.

Tso hoped the taxi watchdog group will make sure that taxis not only have functioning seat belts, but that they also require taxis to remove or modify any seat covers so that passengers can access all parts of the belts.

There were also readers complaining that the seat belts are too dirty, with 15 percent of respondents making that point in the poll.

Giovanni Bettocchi, an Italian expat, said the situation happened to him many times, even though the safety belts are available in taxis.

"It makes the passenger reluctant to use them. If one is wearing a white shirt, it will end up with black stains on the neck," Bettocchi said.

The safety belt campaign began after a man riding in a taxi's back seat was killed in a rear-end collision in October. The man was not wearing a seat belt when his head hit the touch screen installed on the back of the taxi's front seat.

The ad screen now starts with a reminder: "Please buckle up."

Readers are still welcome to sound off via e-mail at or to comment at


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