A Saskatoon bus driver who was ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt has argued successfully in court that he shouldn't have to — because he needs to be free to fend off attacks.
In a decision recently published to an online legal database, Queen's Bench Justice Grant Currie overturned a previous conviction against city transit bus driver Dean Christianson.
Christianson was ticketed by Saskatoon police for not fastening his seatbelt while driving a bus. (The legal documents did not say when the incident took place.)
'You do not know who is going to grab your steering wheel while you're driving, or sucker punch you, or stab you, or spit on you.' —Bus driver Dean Christianson testifies
In traffic court, he argued that he should not have to, under a provision that exempts operators of Class PC motor vehicles (which includes buses and taxis) if they believe their safety may be compromised.
Christianson argued that his safety was indeed compromised, because of an increase in attacks on city bus drivers in the past few years. He also argued that he had been threatened by three passengers who were on his bus at the time he was ticketed.
"This is a growing, nationwide epidemic," he testified. "As someone who has been spit on, I discovered that you do not know who is going to grab your steering wheel while you're driving or sucker punch you, or stab you, or spit on you."
Other drivers punched
Christianson said he knows of other drivers who have been repeatedly punched while trying to get their seatbelt off so they can defend themselves.
"I felt my safety was compromised and that by wearing my seatbelt I might not be able to defend myself if attacked," he testified.
At the end of the original trial, the traffic court judge ruled that Christianson failed to prove his safety was compromised that day. He also dismissed Christianson's claim that he should be allowed to leave his seatbelt unfastened pre-emptively, because of concern of a future attack.
However, in his Oct. 20 decision, Currie ruled that the first judge erred. Christianson didn't need to prove his safety was compromised at that time, Currie said. He said it is enough for Christianson to believe his safety may be compromised on a continuing basis.
"The traffic safety court justice characterized Mr. Christianson's decision not to wear a seat belt as an unreasonable overreaction to the experiences of others," he wrote in his decision. "I conclude, though, that Mr. Christianson's decision was a reasonable reaction to the experiences of himself and of others."
Currie found Christianson not guilty of the seatbelt offence. However, he dismissed Christianson's appeal of a speeding ticket, noting that Christianson didn't pursue the appeal.
It's not known if the Crown will appeal Currie's decision.