For many years now, drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles have been fitting safety screens in their cars to protect them against physical attacks from passengers. With the COVID-19 pandemic still very much in people’s minds even more drivers are seeing the potential benefits of installing such screens.

However, if you think fitting a screen is a straightforward matter then you would be mistaken. In order for any installation to not fall foul of licensing authority rules, it needs to be done right. Read our guide on how to fit a screen in your taxi and you’ll feel more secure in no time.

Understanding how to keep you and your passengers safe is only one part of being a responsible taxi driver. First up, you need the right taxi insurance for your particular circumstances, whether you run just one or a whole fleet of taxis. Get a quick quote from our specialist team today.

 

Reasons to fit a screen in your taxi

 

As part of government guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, taxi drivers have been advised screens should be one of a number of measures to consider. In addition to all other COVID-19 safety measures of course.

The decision of whether or not to install a screen rests with you and your local licensing authority. It’s important to remember fitting a screen can help reduce the risk of virus transmission, making life safer for both you and your passengers both during and after the pandemic.

Many screens are made of toughened plastic designed to fit snugly behind your front seats, effectively sectioning off the front from the rest of the vehicle. Most screens have slots in the middle so passengers can still pay through them. It’s important to note these screens won’t completely prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the taxi but they do act as an important barrier.

The costs of a screen will vary between manufacturers but when you add protection against physical attack into the balance, screens do offer excellent value.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is yet another threat that now comes with the job. So any efforts you take to limit the chance of being infected, infecting others, must surely be worth it.

 

Covid masks

 

Choosing the right screen for your vehicle

 

There are plenty of screens on the market at a range of price levels to suit a variety of makes and models of vehicles. It’s important to consider the best screen suited for your vehicle based on its particular design and specifications. Many screen manufacturers will tell you whether or not the screen is suited to your car. Indeed, some screens are made by vehicle manufacturers themselves so you can be assured of a perfect fit.

When choosing a screen, the government advises you to consider the following things:

  • Always comply with any requirements set by your licensing authority.
  • The screen must be transparent and of a firm or solid design. It mustn't get in the way of your vision while driving. Take care that your rearward view in the internal mirror is not obscured.
  • Watch out for excessive reflection or distortion in internal mirrors or onto the windscreen.
  • The screen mustn’t interfere with vehicle safety systems such as airbags. Consider a screen that’s flexible or has flexible borders so it won’t interfere with the correct deployment of side or curtain airbags.
  • The screen mustn’t interfere with other vehicle safety systems, such as seatbelts and their fixing points, seat back and head rests.
  • Check the screen and its fixings have no sharp edges or protrusions that could cause injury to your or your passengers.
  • The screen must be made of a material that doesn’t have sharp edges if it breaks.
  • Try to reduce the gap between the screen and the vehicle sides as much as possible. If a screen fits the shape of the interior of the vehicle perfectly then it will be best at preventing transmission of COVID-19.
  • Make sure the screen can be easily cleaned between fares. It also should be secure enough that it doesn’t move much during cleaning.
  • Check the screen material isn’t toxic or flammable.

Where to get a screen

 

A key part of not falling foul of your licensing authority is to get a screen fitted by a motor trader or professional fitter. Or if you want to self-install, then buy one that’s manufactured and designed to fit in your vehicle and is designed to be installed by the customer. Buying a cheap roll of clear plastic sheet and gaffer tape from a hardware store and creating your own makeshift solution simply is not going to work.

Fortunately, soon after COVID-19 hit vehicle manufacturers and other professional screen suppliers entered the market. These include:

Driver Bubble – This Dutch-owned company makes a huge range of screens to fit almost any type of car or driver requirement. Prices (excluding VAT) start at £34 for the Driver Bubble Flex, rising to £83 for the Driver Bubble Shield Standard. If you have a bigger vehicle then the Driver Bubble Shield Large will cost £88 with edge protection.

Driver Shields – This Essex-based company has used its expertise in making high-impact polycarbonate screens to protect drivers from passenger attacks. Their shields are stylish, flexible and adaptable and are designed to fit behind front bucket type seats. A pair of overlapping screens can effectively seal off the rear compartment. Simple to install there are quick release fittings so the screens can easily be transferred between cars.

Mount-a-Part – This UK company prides itself on its high-quality polycarbonate shields. Straightforward, quick to install and custom-designed to fit your vehicle, Mount-a-Part says there’ll be no gaps between you and your passengers. So, you can be confident the transfer of potential viruses is reduced to a minimum. The screens fit a variety of popular cars and people carriers from the Audi A6 to the Volkswagen Transporter. Screens range in price from £175 to £365.

Among motor manufacturers Toyota has launched a range of polycarbonate barrier screens to fit popular models including the Prius. A medium-sized screen costs £195 including VAT and fitting while a larger version costs £210. Ford has also launched a range of protection screens as accessories to fit its vans and people carriers.

Some councils like Liverpool City Council and Bradford City Council have even launched their own schemes to install screens to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So, if you’re thinking of installing one then contact your own licensing authority and see what’s available.

 

Lady in taxi with mask

 

How to fit a screen

 

When you’ve chosen the right screen for your vehicle, you’ll need to install it properly. There are lots of garages, dealerships, or specialist screen installers that can do this for you. Or, if you have the right skills and equipment to do so safely, you can do it yourself. Before you begin, it’s important to check with your licensing authority to make sure they don’t have any specific requirements when it comes to installation. Not all councils have the same approach and it’s important you follow the guidance for your area.

Step 1: Think about correct installation

Whether it’s you or someone else fitting the screen, it’s important the installation is carried out in accordance with any government guidance. In particular you should consider the placement of:

  • Rear view mirrors.
  • Head restraints.
  • Seat adjustments.
  • Seatbelts and their fixing points.

If you don't, all of your hard work could end up being for nothing.

Step 2: Read the screen manufacturer’s instructions

Installation has to be in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturer of the screen. Always ensure any fixings don’t get in the way of you seeing out of the back of the vehicle. If you’re able to, ensure the screen is mounted to minimise reflections. This can be done by tweaking the angle of the screen – a bit of trial and error might be needed here.

Step 3: Never compromise on safety

When fixing the screen to the vehicle ensure no safety or electrical systems are interfered with. For example, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles will have high voltage cables that may be hidden in the body of the car. Never drill holes into the vehicle trim if you don’t know what’s under the surface.

It’s also dangerous for the screen to interfere with the correct operation of the seats and head restraints. In particular, never install rigid fixings to headrests – any fixings in this area must be flexible. And never remove headrests.

If you’re in doubt then the Euro Rescue app contains information on the position of high voltage cables, airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, etc. Used by first responders to aid extrication of injured occupants from cars, it’s also useful for carrying out safe screen installation. It can be downloaded for free on both Android and iOS phones.

Step 4: Check your seat

A comfortable driving position is an important way to guard against back problems among taxi drivers. So, when installing the screen make sure you can still adjust your seat. Your seat should be able to be moved forwards and backwards. Similarly, you should be able to recline the seat. In view of the many hours spent behind the wheel it’s important your comfort is not compromised.

Step 5: Check seat belts

The screen shouldn’t interfere with the correct operation of any seatbelts. The seatbelt webbing should not rub against the screen or the fixing points. Neither should it adversely affect the effective working of seatbelt pretensioners.

Step 6: Check airbags

Safety systems such as airbags save countless numbers of lives every year. It’s important that a screen doesn’t hinder their correct operation. Don’t use rigid fixings around airbags.

Airbags may be identified through markings or labels on the following:

  • Steering wheel.
  • Front dashboard.
  • Head restraints.
  • Trim panels.

It’s also worth double checking with the vehicle manual, too.

Step 7: Securely fix screen

It’s important the screen remains in place even when the vehicle is driven with the windows open. If the screen isn’t secure then it won’t work and it could even present a danger.

Step 8: Ensure entry and exit are still possible

If getting into or out of the vehicle is made more difficult due to the fitting of a screen then you’ll need to think again. Grab handles need to remain available for use and doors should never be obstructed.

Step 9: Ensure adequate communication with passengers

If you can’t hear passengers when the screen is fitted then you have a problem. Be aware communication might be made more difficult by the use of a screen, particularly if you and your passengers are also wearing face masks.

Consider how you will communicate with passengers who are hearing impaired. If you use stickers or notices to give information to passengers, these shouldn’t reduce your view of mirrors or out of the windows.

Step 10: Inform your taxi insurance provider

Before you fit a screen to your vehicle, inform your taxi insurance provider so they’re aware of the change. Failure to do so could risk invalidating your policy. While you’re at it, ask whether screen repairs or a replacement screen would be included in your insurance cover if you have an accident.

 

Protecting your business with taxi insurance

 

With the amount of rules and regulations around COVID-19 and a host of other matters there’s a lot you need to stay on top of. Working as a taxi driver in the 21st Century is far from stress-free!

That’s why the team of specialists at Taxi Insurer is always looking to come up with little ways to help. For example, our interest-free payment plans are here to make your taxi insurance payments more manageable alongside other expenses.

The taxi insurance we arrange comes in many varieties tailored to you and your vehicle. We can cover everything from single vehicles to entire fleets, as well as high-value executive cars. We can offer no claims bonus protection and cover for minibuses and MPVs.

Get a quote for taxi insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

icon-phone