Buckle up or get out of my car Pri­vate taxi firm em­pow­ers driv­ers to refuse pas­sen­gers who won’t wear seat­belt

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­hak Man­nan @Ma­hakLFC

The op­er­a­tors of a lux­ury taxi ser­vice in the UAE have told their driv­ers to refuse to take pas­sen­gers if they fail to buckle up.

Ca­reem UAE said the mea­sure is nec­es­sary to safe­guard its pas­sen­gers and en­sure the safety of its driv­ers, who could be se­ri­ously in­jured by an un­buck­led pas­sen­ger on the back seat in an ac­ci­dent.

The use of a seat­belt for back seat pas­sen­gers is not com­pul­sory in the UAE - but strongly rec­om­mended by road safety cam­paign­ers and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Ca­reem’s move has been backed by cam­paign group Road­Safe­tyUAE. It hopes a po­ten­tial re­fusal by driv­ers them­selves will set an ex­am­ple. The ini­tia­tive fol­lows a sur­vey by Ca­reem and Road­Safe­tyUAE of peo­ple who use chauf­feur-driven ve­hi­cles that found only 57 per cent of pas­sen­gers buckle up, a fig­ure de­scribed as “alarm­ing”. Chris­tian Eid, Gen­eral Man­ager at Ca­reem UAE, said: “Ca­reem has em­pow­ered its cap­tains to refuse pas­sen­gers who choose not to buckle up. In short, if you don’t buckle up, we will choose not to pro­vide an un­safe trip.

“Though this might sound dras­tic, we hope our pas­sen­gers will value their safety as much as we do and hope that our com­mu­nity will wel­come this.”

Thomas Edel­mann, founder of Road­Safe­tyUAE, said that driv­ers and taxi com­pa­nies could lead the way in bring­ing about a change of cul­tural on the roads.

He said: “The fail­ure to wear a seat­belt in the back is not only dan­ger­ous for the pas­sen­ger - they could fly for­ward and kill the per­son in the front seat in the event of an ac­ci­dent.

“We want driv­ers to be em­pow­ered. By ask­ing pas­sen­gers to belt up we hope to bring about a change in cul­ture.”

Edel­mann added: “Peo­ple are waking up to the is­sue of road safety and we are now get­ting a lot of mo­men­tum.” Ca­reem driv­ers in Dubai told 7DAYS that be­fore the drive was launched, they were al­ready in the habit of ask­ing pas­sen­gers to buckle up. How­ever, some said, with no law on their side, that they felt it hard to com­pel the pas­sen­gers who pay their wages. Asif Sabir, 36, from Pak­istan, said: “As soon as the pas­sen­gers get in we re­quest them to put on their seat­belts, even if they are in the back. “We also do a lot of school pick-up and drop-offs which means a lot of kids on the back seat. We make sure all of them have their seat­belts on. “We do of­ten have pas­sen­gers who do not wear their seat­belts un­til we tell them but most of them do not hes­i­tate to. If they refuse, we ask them again and if they are still stub­born we don’t ask thrice.” Dawood Sa­heb, 32-year-old, said it is dif­fi­cult to force customers. He said: “Un­til the government makes it com­pul­sory, we can­not force peo­ple to wear seat­belts at the back, but we can give them knowl­edge about why to do so.”

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