As there are no clear guidelines available on the carriage of unaccompanied minors available, we reached out the National Transport Authority (NTA) for clarification.
The NTA’s response to drivers taking unaccompanied minors states it’s a complicated area of law as there are other considerations with regard to children and their custodianship, and unfortunately there is no clear answer to the question.
The below is an attempt to assist by offering some practical suggestions to SPSV drivers who are happy to provide a service to minors.
A child may be the “hirer” and so a contract to provide a taxi service is a valid contract, as it may be necessary for the child to take a journey. From a safety perspective, our advice to a driver would be that if they carry a minor, they should ensure that they can carry them safely.
The standard (adult) seat belt is suitable only for passengers taller than 1.35 metres. Shorter children would usually be required to travel in the appropriate (for their size) child seat. However, as there are 5 different sizes, it is not possible for the taxi to carry all sizes and so, on practical grounds, children less than 1.35 m tall are exempted from wearing a seat belt in the rear seats of taxis.
The driver is ultimately responsible for the safety of his vehicle and passengers. Where the minor is smaller than 1.35 m in height and the driver is not carrying the appropriate child seat, it is for the driver to decide if, they safely carry the passenger. If not, then the driver may refuse the trip on this basis.
If an operator is engaged in regularly transporting an unaccompanied child under prior arrangement, she/he insists on having express written permission from the guardians of that child to do so.
Where the child travels regularly, it would appear difficult to rely on the practical exemption above, i.e., the appropriate child seat should be used.