Concerns over vinyl seats in taxis

September 9, 2008 3:10:48 PM PDT
What was meant to keep taxis clean, hygienic and safe may have compromised the safety of millions of New York City taxi passengers. For decades the Taxi and Limousine Commission required vinyl seat covers in cabs.

Unlike cloth seats, vinyl doesn't absorb stains.

The problem is pretty simple -- the vinyl covers put on the seats affect the sensors in the seat, which then affects how the airbags are deployed.

In newer cabs the front seats sensors detect if someone is sitting and their size. That decides how forceful to deploy the air bag in an accident.

Of the more than 13-thousand taxis on the road, the affected vehicles are 14-hundred hybrid taxis and more than 13-hundred non-Crown Victoria vehicles.

The TLC estimates 25-hundred or 20 percent will have to have the vinyl removed.

"I think since this is the wave of the future, they should invest more time and money and do whatever they need to do to make sure that it's safe," passenger Charles Terry said.

Ronald Sherman of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade says this new finding should put more scrutiny on newer vehicles. If it were up to him, he would stick with the Crown Victoria.

"In 32 years of running a taxi fleet, I have never had a passenger or driver killed in an accident," Sherman said.

In response, the TLC said, "Once we were made aware of the potential problem, the TLC responded quickly and proactively.... Many of the vinyl covers have already been removed."

The rule change becomes official on Wednesday in hopes of keeping the 240 million passengers each year in New York City safer.

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STORY BY: Carolina Leid

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bob Monek

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