Q&A - Taxi Passengers Not Wearing Seatbelts
My partner and I live in Victoria and finally able to afford it, decided to go out to dinner in North Saanich. Not wanting to drink and drive, we went to the expense of booking a hotel in Sidney and took a taxi to the restaurant and back . On the way back to the hotel after our dinner, the taxi driver went through a road block immediately after turning off the highway onto Beacon Avenue, directly across from the hotel where we were staying. The taxi driver told us not to worry as we were in a cab and it would be just a formality.
The police officer checked inside the cab and asked my partner and I for our drivers licenses and did not say another word to us including why she wanted to see them; in fact, I thought we were being id'd for some unknown reason.
I asked the cab driver what was going on – he said maybe seat belt – I said my understanding was that I did not need to wear a seatbelt in a taxi cab (which also includes other public transportation: ie.a bus, etc.) – I have been in many taxi cabs over the years and gone through road blocks and NOT ONCE been told I needed to wear my seat belt. The taxi driver then pointed out a tiny sign (which I could not read from the back seat) on the glove box that indicated passengers were to wear seat belts.
After a very lovely evening, I was very upset. I felt that we were doing the right thing by not drinking and driving and went to the expense of booking a hotel room only to be given an expensive ticket for not wearing a seat belt after years of being in a cab and not wearing one.
Once back at the hotel I mentioned to the desk clerk what had happened and she stated that the RCMP set up road blocks at that particular spot (across from the hotel) and that many tourists who are unaware of Canadian laws are given tickets and that it hurts their business.
Not knowing what to expect during the process of receiving a ticket from a law officer, I felt that the police officer could have communicated and explained what she was doing. She never said a word to us. That communication would have given both my partner and I an opportunity to let her know that we were unaware of the requirement to wear a seat belt in a taxi cab as it had never been pointed out before, by either police officers at any other road block or by any taxi drivers over many years. At the very least, a warning could have been given knowing that I did not know the law as well as she did. Since the time of the ticket I have read up on the law and I understand that not being aware of the law is not an excuse; however, considering my exemplary driving record, a warning would have resulted in our wearing a seat belt in a cab from there on in and been an end to a very lovely evening in the town of Sidney.
Other then one speeding ticket in over 43 years of driving, I have never received a ticket and been a law abiding citizen.
I am looking for advice for appearing in front of the judge tomorrow.