Sydney cabs vs Uber – let’s talk about safety shall we? Whiplash and head rests

There’s been a lot of fluff from the cab industry this week about Uber (sign up to get $10 off your first ride!) and safety.

So let’s talk about safety. Specifically, head rests. Head rests are an extremely important safety device if the vehicle in which you are travelling is read-ended by another car. They help prevent or reduce whiplash neck injuries which can sometimes last the rest of your life.

They’ve been mandatory in the USA since the 1960s and it’s almost impossible to buy a car without head rests – even the lowly Yaris comes with three  in the back:

Head restraints in Yaris


And yet what did I find in my Sydney cab today? No head rests. I sat in the front, so should you. Or call an Uber instead.

Sydney cab with no head-rests


Update 28 September 2015:

As an Uber crackdown starts in Sydney, NSW Taxi Council reveals one third of its fleet are dangerous and shouldn’t be on the road

Question: can you buy a private car without head rests? No.
Are they essential safety equipment in case of a rear-end collision to prevent whiplash? Yes.
So would you expect a third of Sydney taxis to not have them? Er, yes?
I called a taxi for my pregnant wife a few weeks ago and was disappointed by the condition of the wagon taxi sent to pick her up. The main problem was it didn’t have head rests in the back so if she was crashed into by another vehicle during the trip she’d get much more serious neck injury than if the car was fitted with them. You cannot buy a private car without them so why on earth would a private hire vehicle not have them?

So I emailed the NSW Taxi council:

“Hi NSW taxi,
I just called a taxi for my pregnant wife and was very surprised that a wagon taxi was sent that did not have head rests in the back.
Head rests are a basic safety requirement for rear-end collisions and help prevent whiplash. You cannot buy a car without them so how on earth are taxis allowed on the road without them?

And they replied:

“Hi Julian,
You need to call RMS and report this taxi. A taxi should not be on the road without Head Rests.
The official complaints line for RMS is 132213.
Warm Regards,
Alisha Smith – Executive Personal Assistant to the CEO
NSW Taxi Council”

Confused I emailed again:

“Hi Alisha,
I agree but since I saw this, I’ve noticed that NONE of the wagons have headrests for passengers so really they shouldn’t be in commercial use.”

And they replied that it’s OK because it’s ok to put people in danger as long as it’s only for the next 6 months “roughly”:

“Hi Julian,
I just had a chat with RMS, they have actually notified me that it is common with the Station Wagons as they were built without them apparantly. Having said that, they will only be on the road for roughly another 6 months before you will not see another station Wagon Taxi.
Warm Regards,
Alisha Smith – Executive Personal Assistant to the CEO
NSW Taxi Council”

So as RMS cracks down on Uber this week, remember that they said it’s ok for taxis to be dangerous for a while longer.