Click here to play a recorded seat belt reminder for a taxicab. The brief message is: "There's a seat belt for you! Please, buckle up." The voices are those of Tara Housman and Jim Lewis, both of San Francisco.
Customer response to the recorded message was excellent during a four-year trial in a partitioned taxicab. More than 50% of rear seat passengers voluntarily used the seat belts compared to very few without a reminder.
Since this was the only cab equipped with such a message in San Francisco, I received many comments from passengers. There were positive comments every day, but there were almost no negative comments.
The single most frequent spoken response was the cheery sound of a woman passenger mimicking Tara's melodious message. This happened hundreds of times and was invariably followed by the sound of the seat belts being attached.
Many customers told me about the messages they heard in NYC taxicabs, and many offered renditions of Eartha Kitt purring like a cat.
At least two additional factors contributed to the relatively high rate of seat belt usage. The driver always buckled up, and there was a small sign visible to passengers: "Please use seat belts."
By observation, the seat belts were least likely to be used when three passengers rode in the back seat. In four years, the center set of belts was almost never used by a passenger.
The message plays through a rear-shelf speaker each time that the taximeter is turned on. The "talking taxi" device is a black box about the size of a deck of cards, available from American Taximeter in NYC, tel. 718-937-4600. The cost in 1997 was $35 plus the cost of installation at a local meter shop.
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