New Seatbelt Rules Coming for Canada: Using seatbelts is common sense.

by John McKiggan

Have you ever noticed that the middle-rear seat of most cars usually doesn’t have a shoulder seat belt strap? Ever wonder if the side seats that have shoulder straps are safer than the middle seat?

Studies have shown that passengers wearing lap belts alone are more likely to suffer separation of their lumbar vertebrae, causing paralysis.

Three point (shoulder strap) seat belts have been mandatory in all cars sold in the U.S. since September 2007.

Canada Catching Up

But in Canada, three point restraints have not been mandatory for rear middle seats. That is changing soon. As of September 1st, 2015, Transport Canada is making it mandatory for rear centre seats to have shoulder straps.

The amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations will not apply to older vehicles, but all new cars will be required to have the feature. Transport Minister Denis Lebel is quoted by CBC as saying:

“Making shoulder belts mandatory in the rear centre seat will reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

Seat belt Success Story

I remember when I was a child my family used to drive to Cape Breton for vacation every summer. My brothers and sister and I used to pile into the back seat of our gigantic station wagon for the long drive. Although I am sure there were seat belts in the car, none of us ever wore them. Fortunately that has changed.

Nova Scotia first passed their mandatory seat belt law in 1985. Before then, it was legal to not wear a seat belt in the car. Today, Transport Canada states that 93% of Canadians wear their seat belts.

It is noteworthy that the 7% of Canadians who are not wearing their seat belts are responsible for approximately 40% of motor vehicle fatalities.

Another Good Reason to Wear a Seat belt

Consider this situation: You are injured in a car accident, it was entirely the other driver’s fault, but you were not wearing your seat belt. In Canada, the Court will not prevent you from recovering damages against the other party. However, the Court will likely deduct a percentage of your damages due to your own contributory negligence.

The amount that the Court will deduct will depend on the particular facts involved, but a Supreme Court of Canada case, Galaske v. O’Donnell noted that Canadian Courts:

“…have consistently deducted 5 to 25 percent from claims for damages for personal injury on the ground that the victims were contributory negligent for not wearing their seat belts”.

In fact, the New Brunswick Insurance Act specifically states that any person injured in a motor vehicle accident who was not wearing a seat belt will automatically assume 25% responsibility, unless they can specifically prove that the failure to wear the seat belt did not contribute to the injuries.

Here in Nova Scotia the Regulations to the Insurance Act state:

10 (1) Limitation where seat belt not worn – Unless exempt by law from the requirement in the Motor Vehicle Act to wear a seat belt, where an injured person was not wearing a seat belt at the time of an incident, there shall be a reduction of at least twenty-five per cent in damages for bodily injury or death arising directly or indirectly from the use or operation of an automobile in respect of the incident.

The bottom line: buckle up! It’s just common sense, because it is safer and it may save you dollars and cents because if you’re injured your claim won’t be reduced for contributory negligence.

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