After a 4-year-old child was ejected from a taxi cab in a bad accident on Roanoke Avenue Tuesday, one Riverhead woman has made it her mission to make sure that all taxis operating in town have proper car seats.
“What happened really disturbed me,” said Amanda Byrnes, herself a mother of three. “That doesn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t happen,” she said.
A mother and child were unrestrained rear-seat passengers in the cab when it collided with an oncoming vehicle as it attempted to turn off Roanoke Avenue. Both were ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured, according to police.
Taxi cabs and livery vehicles are exempt from state law requiring infants and young children to ride in special child restraint seats.
But that doesn’t prevent them from having child seats available for passengers, Byrnes reasons.
“A car seat could have prevented that child from being ejected,” she said.
Byrnes said she had trouble sleeping Tuesday night and spent a lot of time online buying car seats to donate to taxi cabs licensed to operate in the Town of Riverhead.
“I plan to supply each town-licensed taxi company with three or four car seats,” she said. Byrnes has purchased 31 so far, both convertible infant seats and high-backed booster seats, she said today. She’s bought them online at Walmart and picking them up at various Walmart stores in Suffolk.
Byrnes said she’s been calling local taxi companies to tell them what she’s doing and seek their support — and their commitment to have their drivers use them. So far, she’s gotten a good response, she said.
“I have Starlight Taxi, Moonlight, Latino Taxi, Riverhead Town Taxi and Day & Night Taxi all willing to use the car seats and provide safe rides for children,” Byrnes said. She is meeting with the cab companies next week to donate the seats, she said.
Managers at Moonlight and Latino taxi companies confirmed they were accepting the donations and cooperating in Byrnes’ plan. Managers at the other two companies she named could not be reached for comment.
But Byrnes’ newfound quest does not end with taxi companies. She says she wants to provide car seats to families who cannot afford to buy them for their children.
She would like to donate 15 or 20 car seats to Riverhead Police for distribution to parents in need, she said. Byrnes said she is still trying to work out those arrangements.
An office manager at a Westhampton transmission shop, Byrnes said she usually adopts a couple of families at Christmas time and this year decided to buy car seats instead.
Young children riding without car seats, she said, “is a tragedy waiting to happen.”
No information was available about the condition of the boy hurt in the accident Tuesday. His mother, Estela Ortiz-Casia, 27, who was also ejected from the taxi in the crash, was listed in fair condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.