Police haven't withdrawn seatbelt ticket on armless Saskatoon man

Double amputee Steve Simonar has been driving for 28 years despite having no arms. He's fighting a seatbelt ticket.

A Saskatoon man with no arms is angry with police after getting a seatbelt ticket — and says his fight for an apology isn't over.

Steven Simonar, 55, is a double amputee, having lost both his arms in a boating accident almost 30 years ago.

The construction foreman drives a specially equipped truck and uses his feet to steer.

However, he can't buckle up or take off a seatbelt without assistance, so he goes without it.

He says to be ticketed for that is not fair.

Last week, when Saskatoon police and RCMP were conducting a massive traffic blitz, hundreds of people were pulled over for speeding, seatbelt infractions and other violations.

Simonar was one of them and he was given a $175 ticket.

He said he overheard a Saskatoon police officer say that if he couldn't put his seatbelt on, maybe he shouldn't be driving.

That infuriated him, considering he's been driving for 28 years with no problem.

"You know, come and spend a week with me," Simonar said. "It's a different life."

Police in Saskatoon said they met with Simonar Wednesday, but were not going to withdraw the ticket because he did not provide any paperwork showing he was excused from the seatbelt law.

"We can't take that ticket away," Alyson Edwards, a spokeswoman for Saskatoon police, said. "We wouldn't be doing our duty if we hadn't issued that. If we had allowed him to go without a seatbelt on, and no exempt status, we wouldn't be doing our jobs."

Simonar said he expected officers to use a bit more common sense.

"It just never should have happened," he said. "I've been stopped before, I'm not a saint. I've had tickets before and police have stopped me, but nobody's ever given me a seatbelt ticket because they figured out right away that I can't put one on."

Simonar said the usual reaction he got from police when he was stopped by them in the past was a look of surprise.

Back in 1985, Simonar had finished a summer day of sailing on Big Shell Lake, north of Saskatoon, with two of his young children and a friend. The youngsters were on the beach and the men were pulling their boat onto shore when the mast hit a power line, killing Simonar's friend instantly.

Simonar was rushed to hospital. Doctors were unable to save his arms, which had burned from the inside out. They amputated both limbs to his shoulders.

The 55-year-old, who is married and now has four children, needs help each day doing most things, such as getting dressed and eating.

But he can drive on his own, and has been using vehicles that have been modified so he can drive with his feet. His left foot turns a small steering wheel near the floor and his right foot works the gas and brake pedals.

He also uses his feet to open the door of his pickup truck and turn the key in the ignition.

Simonar said shortly after he lost his arms, he passed a driving test using his feet. Saskatchewan Government Insurance has approved all of his modified vehicles.

He also used to carry a doctor's note explaining the obvious: he can't put on a seatbelt. He said he was unaware that the note was no longer sufficient and he needed to apply to SGI, Saskatchewan's licensing agency, for a medical exemption.

SGI spokeswoman Kellie Brinkworth said doctors were previously allowed to grant the exemptions. In 2000, legislation changed requiring approval from SGI with a doctor's note.

"At that time, we sent a letter to every person with an existing exemption letting them know about the change and what would be required to maintain their exemption," Brinkworth said.

Six permanent seatbelt exemptions were approved in the province last year, she said.

Simonar said he didn't know about the requirement until police pulled him over last Thursday during the checkstop.

According to the Saskatoon police, Simonar was told officers do not have the power to tear up a ticket.

"The staff sergeant certainly wanted to try and bring about some understanding on both sides and get our point across," Edwards said.

Simonar described the meeting as a waste of time, adding that the officer who ordered the ticket was firm and told him all drivers need to be treated the same.

"I told him, 'You think this is over? This is so far from over. I still maintain you're going to rip this ticket up and you're going to give me an apology, even if you don't like it.'

"He just sat there so smug and ignorant and arrogant, just rolling his eyes."

Simonar said he is already in the process of applying for a medical exemption. And, since police probably won't get rid of the ticket, he'll be fighting it in traffic court.

He earlier fought a parking fine in court, arguing he was unable to plug coins in the meter, he said. He lost.

He said the prosecutor told the judge that Simonar should have been able to use his teeth to put in some change.