Man with no arms still wants apology from officer who issued seatbelt ticket
Steve Simonar stands in front of his modified pickup truck in Saskatoon, Sask., Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (Liam Richards / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
SASKATOON -- A man with no arms isn't giving up his fight against a Saskatoon police officer who gave him a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.
Steve Simonar made headlines across the country earlier this year when he complained about getting his first seatbelt ticket. He can't physically buckle up.
A Crown prosecutor recently withdrew the $175 fine in court after the province granted Simonar a medical exemption allowing him to drive without wearing a belt.
Simonar is pleased, but not backing down. He still wants an apology from the constable who gave him the ticket and he wants the force to reprimand the officer.
"The ticket never was the issue," Simonar said Wednesday.
"It's good that they had enough sense to throw it out but the bigger picture is still this officer's attitude."
Simonar, an owner of a Saskatoon construction company, lost his arms in 1985 after he was electrocuted in a boating accident. He learned to drive with his feet and has had several vehicles modified so he can do so.
The 55-year-old uses his left foot to turn a small steering wheel near the floor and his right foot to work the gas and brake pedals. He also uses his feet to open the door and turn the key.
Simonar said police have pulled him over at least 20 times in the past and never gave him a seatbelt ticket before.
So he was surprised when he got his first ticket during a traffic blitz in April. Simonar said the officer was abrupt and told him if he couldn't wear a seatbelt, he shouldn't be driving.
A police spokeswoman later explained that Simonar didn't have a medical exemption, so he needed to be given a ticket.
Simonar said he used to carry a doctor's note and didn't know the rules had changed requiring him to apply to Saskatchewan Government Insurance for a written exemption. He applied for one soon after he got the ticket.
He later sat down with the officer who gave him the ticket and a superior. But Simonar said they wouldn't rip up the ticket and the officer was offensive.
Simonar alleges the officer said "you people" in referring to handicapped drivers.
"And he said if he stopped me again, he'd give me another ticket. But he would make sure he put my seatbelt on and then let me go."
Simonar said strapping him in his truck would amount to unlawful confinement since it would be impossible for him to get out of his vehicle without help. "I'd have to flag somebody down somehow.
Police are no longer commenting on the ticket or the officer's actions because Simonar has filed a formal complaint with the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission.
Simonar believes it will be awhile before his complaint is heard. In the meantime, he doesn't expect to have other problems with police.
He was pulled over a month ago by an officer in Prince Albert, Sask., he said. He got a ticket for speeding but the officer didn't ask to see his seatbelt exemption.
"There was no question about the seatbelt," he said.
Simonar called Saskatoon police last week after his truck was stolen. He said officers were polite and professional in dealing with the theft.
"I've talked a lot to officers since and everybody's great. It's just this one guy.
"The whole complaint is not about the Saskatoon city police. It's just this one officer. That's it."