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Ontario Seat Belt Offences

A couple of generations ago, seat belts were not legally required to be worn in any of the Canadian provinces or territories.  A driver could simply hop behind the wheel, turn the ignition, and drive away without needing to buckle themselves in.  Beyond the commonsense safety of wearing a seat belt, these days driving without buckling up could result in you being stopped by the police and being ticketed.  Let’s take a look at seat belt tickets here in Ontario…

THE LAW

Ontario was the first part of Canada to enact a mandatory seat belt law on January 1, 1976.  Yukon was the last province, holding out until July 1, 1991 to enact a seat belt law.  Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) lists seat belt laws under section 106:

“106 (1) No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle in which a seat belt assembly required under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada) at the time that the vehicle was manufactured or imported into Canada has been removed, rendered partly or wholly inoperative, modified so as to reduce its effectiveness or is not operating properly through lack of maintenance.  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

Specifically, if you are being charged as the driver of a vehicle who is not wearing a seat belt, you will likely be charged under HTA s.106(2) which carries 2 demerit points and 1 CVOR point for commercial motor vehicle drivers:

“(2) Every person who drives on a highway a motor vehicle in which a seat belt assembly is provided for the driver shall wear the complete seat belt assembly as required by subsection (5).  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

Passengers are also required to wear a seat belt.  Failing to do so, could result in you being charged under HTA s.106(3) as follows:

“(3) Every person who is at least 16 years old and is a passenger in a motor vehicle on a highway shall,

(a) occupy a seating position for which a seat belt assembly has been provided; and
(b) wear the complete seat belt assembly as required by subsection (5).  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

Drivers have a responsibility to ensure that any young passengers (under 16 years of age) are properly wearing a seat belt.  Failing to do so can result in 2 demerit points and 1 CVOR point under HTA s.106(4):

“(4) No person shall drive on a highway a motor vehicle in which there is a passenger who is under 16 years old unless,

(a) that passenger,
(i) occupies a seating position for which a seat belt assembly has been provided, and 
(ii) is wearing the complete seat belt assembly as required by subsection (5); or

(b) that passenger is required by the regulations to be secured by a child seating system or child restraint system, and is so secured.  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

The total-payable fine for a seat belt related offence will generally be $240.00.  That’s an expensive fine for not buckling up!

HOW A SEAT BELT SHOULD BE WORN:

The Highway Traffic Act specifically lays out how a seat belt should be properly worn if you are to avoid being charged by the police.  The proper method is detailed in HTA s.106(5):

“(5) A seat belt assembly shall be worn so that,

(a) the pelvic restraint is worn firmly against the body and across the hips;
(b) the torso restraint, if there is one, is worn closely against the body and over the shoulder and across the chest;
(c) the pelvic restraint, and the torso restraint, if there is one, are securely fastened; and
(d) no more than one person is wearing the seat belt assembly at any one time.  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

EXCEPTIONS

The Highway Traffic Act does provide some exceptions to the requirement of wearing a seat belt.  The general exemptions are laid out in HTA s.106(6) as follows:

“(6) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply to a person,

(a) who is driving a motor vehicle in reverse;

(b) who holds a certificate signed by a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that the person is,
(i) for the period stated in the certificate, unable for medical reasons to wear a seat belt assembly, or
(ii) because of the person’s size, build or other physical characteristic, unable to wear a seat belt assembly; or

(c) who is actually engaged in work which requires him or her to alight from and re-enter the motor vehicle at frequent intervals and the motor vehicle does not travel at a speed exceeding 40 kilometres per hour.  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

Beyond these basic exemptions, there is also a medical exemption in HTA s.106(7) that can be applied under the following circumstance:

“(7) Clause (4) (a) does not apply in respect of a passenger if the passenger holds a certificate signed by a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that the passenger is,

(a) for the period stated in the certificate, unable for medical reasons to wear a seat belt assembly; or

(b) because of the person’s size, build or other physical characteristic, unable to wear a seat belt assembly.  2006, c. 25, s. 1.”

There used to be a loophole in Ontario seat belt laws that allowed a vehicle to contain more passengers than there were seat belts.  However, this loophole was closed in 2006.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED BY THE POLICE

If you have been charged by the police for a seat belt related offence, it is important to know your rights and what can be done to protect your personal interests.  A conviction will result in hefty fine, a record of the offence being entered into your driving history, and may result in a significant increase to automobile insurance costs.

The time to seek out the basic information that you will need to make an informed decision is immediately after you have been charged by the police.  If you simply plead guilty to the offence and then later try to mitigate the consequences of the conviction, your legal options will be drastically reduced.  Our team at OTD Legal Services is happy to assist you with a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation that includes a quote for legal services.  If you have been charged by the police, our staff can be reached via the toll-free number 1-844-647-6869 or by email at info@otdlegal.ca.

Posted under Seat Belts, Traffic Ticket Defence

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