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Seat belt offence not ‘absolute liability’, Appeal Court decides

By Adrian Miedema

A driver’s failure to wear a seat belt, which is an offence under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, is not an ‘absolute liability’ offence. Rather, ‘due diligence’ is an available defence, the Ontario Court of Appeal has decided.

A police officer saw a driver, one Wilson, stop his vehicle at a stop sign. The officer noticed Wilson’s seat belt hanging by his shoulder and charged Wilson with failing to wear a seat belt, contrary to the Highway Traffic ActWilson argued that he had removed his seat belt after stopping at the stop sign, because he noticed that his coffee in a cup holder in the backseat was spilling on his laptop…

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