A common ticket that I see drivers bringing to our office are seat belt tickets. Seat belt tickets are issued under section 106 of the Highway Traffic Act. Generally, most seat belt related charges carry a 2 demerit point penalty upon conviction. Specifically, the following seat belt related charges are 2 demerit point offences:
- Driver failing to wear a seatbelt
- Driver failing to ensure infant passenger is secured
- Driver failing to ensure toddler passenger is secured
- Driver failing to ensure child is secured
- Driver failing to ensure passenger under 16 years is wearing seatbelt
- Driver failing to ensure passenger under 16 years is occupying a position with a seatbelt
Section 106 of the Highway Traffic Act states that:
Seat belt assembly must not be removed or altered
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.”
The most common section that the driver of a motor vehicle will be charged under is HTA s. 106(2):
Use of seat belt assembly by driver
(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.
Adult passengers are required to be seated in a vehicle location where a seat belt has been provided and to wear that seatbelt correctly. Failure to do so will generally result in being charged under HTA 106(3):
Use of seat belt assembly by passenger
(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.
Driver’s who fail to ensure that non-adult passengers are properly seated and buckled up can be charged under HTA s. 106(4):
Driver to ensure young passenger uses seat belt assembly
(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 common section of the Highway Traffic Act referred to in the above sections is HTA 104(5) which deals with how a seat belt is to be lawfully worn:
How to wear seat belt assembly
(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.
The most common problem that drivers run into in this section is subsection (b) where the seatbelt must be worn over the shoulder and across the chest. Sometimes due to heat, physical, medical, or seat belt design issues, a driver may wear the seat belt underneath their armpit for comfort. Unfortunately, doing so is an unlawful use of the seatbelt and can result in being charged by the police. There are however exemptions provided by the law:
(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.
(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.
These exemptions may apply to drivers whose vehicle is currently being driven in reverse or are driving a work vehicle that specifically meets the criteria set out section 6(c). Drivers and passengers may also be exempt if they have a specifically dated and signed medical note certifying that they are unable to wear a seat belt.
Given that a conviction under HTA s.106 for a seat belt violation can result in a record of conviction on your driving history, demerit points, a fine, and impact your insurance rates, it is worthwhile understanding if you may have a defence that can be provided at court. Fortunately, seat belt related cases are generally relatively inexpensive to for legal work and expense. In some cases, there may be a clear defence that can be argued or one of the specific exemptions may apply. In other cases, after a disclosure of evidence has been reviewed, it may be possible to argue to have the charge withdrawn due to problems with the Prosecutor’s evidence, or to negotiate the offence to a lesser 0 demerit point offence. As a final defence, the matter can be argued in the courtroom to provide your defence and challenge the evidence of the Officer.
At a bare minimum, it is worthwhile getting more information and knowing your rights. We offer a no cost, no obligation review of tickets and can provide you with the basic information to help make an informed decision and protect your legal, financial, and licencing interests. Our staff can be contacted by calling our toll-free number at 1-844-647-6869, via email firstname.lastname@example.org, through our online website, or at any of our offices in person.