Man with no arms plans to fight seatbelt ticket, wants apology from police

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By Chris Purdy - The Canadian Press

SASKATOON — When Steve Simonar was pulled over by police in the past, he says officers would quickly question why he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt while behind the wheel.

Then they realized why. He has no arms.

He says the surprised officers usually looked him over and let him off with “have a nice day.”

“Nobody ever gave me a seatbelt ticket because, you know, I can’t wear one. I can’t put it on,” Simonar explained Wednesday.

The owner of a Saskatoon construction company is fighting his first seatbelt ticket, a $175-fine issued last week during a city traffic blitz. Simonar said he was angry and hurt by the fine and plans to file a complaint with Saskatoon police. He wants the officer who approved the ticket to rip it up and apologize.

“I’m a rare bird ... and that’s what kind of makes this whole thing stupid,” he said. “I’m the exception to the rule and it has to be treated that way.”

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 kids were on the beach and the men were pulling the boat onto shore when its mast hit a power line.

Simonar said his buddy died instantly and he 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.

He has had many vehicles modified over the years 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. And 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 didn’t know the rules had changed requiring him to apply to SGI 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.

An RCMP officer first walked up to his window and then called over a supervising city police officer. Simonar said the Mountie didn’t want to issue the ticket but the city constable was adamant.

“He said, ’Well, if you can’t wear a seatbelt, then you shouldn’t be driving.’

“It just blew me away.”

Saskatoon police spokeswoman Alyson Edwards said the force is concerned for the man’s safety and the safety of the public.

“Wearing a seatbelt is the law. We realize there are people who have different needs and they can apply and be granted medical exemptions. And in those cases we would not write tickets, but this gentleman did not have that.”

Edwards said the officer gave Simonar information on how to apply for a seatbelt exemption. The constable and the staff sergeant in charge of the Saskatoon police traffic unit then met with Simonar on Wednesday to explain why they issued the ticket. And how they legally can’t withdraw it.

“The staff sergeant certainly wanted to try and bring about some understanding on both sides and get our point across,” she said. “We had to issue a ticket to someone who we really didn’t want to issue a ticket to ... but we can’t just simply look away and say, ’drive on.”’

Simonar described the meeting as a waste of time. 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 Simonar should have been able to use his teeth to put in some change.

 

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • something
    May 05, 2013 - 22:46

    if you dont think this guy deserves a break, then you should probably shake your head and try to get that chip off of your shoulder

  • noodle
    May 05, 2013 - 21:37

    To Charlie Joseph: Your comment comparing this grown man to a little child is disgusting. Mr. Simonar deserves to be treated with dignity like any other adult. If the law says he must wear a seat belt then the onus is on the law to ensure car manufacturers create seat belts that he can operate without assistance, just as they have with the foot controls he uses. Your comments demonstrate why many buildings are still unaccessible to wheelchair users. People like you just don't get it. The disabled are not children. They deserve to be treated with respect and wherever possible they should be able to retain their independence and dignity, just like non-disabled people.

  • Charlie Joseph
    May 03, 2013 - 12:11

    Excuse me, do armless people not fly at the same speed through windshields on impact as armed people do? Little children don't have exceptions, the driver or another adult secures them in. Seems idiotic to allow anyone to go without a belt if it is really about safety. Allow this and you show it isn't about safety, but politics, not logic or any consistant reason. We don't allow blind people to drive for some pretty obvious safety reasons. If you want to be in a vehicle, have someone do up your belt. Stop whining.

  • noodle
    May 03, 2013 - 11:42

    Outrageous! To say he should've put money into a parking meter with his teeth is the epitome of ignorance and just downright filthy. Okay so he's supposed to fill out an application to give him exemption from wearing a seat belt because he has no arms with which to put the belt on.... and he's supposed to fill out the application, how?? This is just BS - the guy is being singled out because he lives in a world that doesn't make enough allowances for people with disabilities, and he's being punished when he's unable to find extraordinary ways to do things. What would it have hurt to let the guy go - how is it hurting any other person on the face of the earth if this man doesn't wear a seat belt?

  • jUST ANOTHER GUY
    May 03, 2013 - 07:35

    I don't understand why he should get a break? He made a mistake, and didn't apply for the forms, and therefore his license is not applicable to that exemption. If it were me, there'd be no question. Next time, he'll have the forms. Pay for your mistakes. We do.

  • Dorothy Parker
    May 02, 2013 - 08:06

    I think they should give him a break....sounds like he has had enough challenges in his life already!!!!!