Proposed amendments to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act to develop a regulatory amendment to exempt bus drivers from ensuring that passengers under the age of 16 must wear a seat belt.
R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 613: SEAT BELT ASSEMBLIES
Regulation - LGIC
Bill or Act:
Highway Traffic Act
Summary of Proposal:
As of September 1, 2020, the federal government imposed new Motor Vehicle Safety Act requirements that mandated the installation of seat belts on all newly built buses over 4,536 kg (with the exception of transit, school and prison buses) manufactured on or after September 1, 2020. Since these changes took effect, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has heard several concerns from the busing industry regarding the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) driver responsibility requirement for seat belt usage under s.106(4). In Ontario, s.106(4) of the HTA requires drivers to ensure that passengers under 16 occupy a seating position and are secured with either a seat belt assembly, if present, or, if the child is under eight years of age, an appropriate child restraint system. Bus drivers are currently exempt from the requirement to secure children under eight years of age in a child restraint system, however, they remain responsible for ensuring older children (up to age 16) are secured appropriately (Section 8.1 of Regulation 613 (Seat Belts)).
Some of the challenges industry has expressed regarding a driver's ability to meet the requirements of s.106 (4) include, but are not limited to:
• Number of passengers on board: Motor coach buses range from 56 up to 81 passengers, and due to these volumes, it would be difficult for bus drivers to provide oversight, if any, of specific passenger(s).
• Identifying passengers: Certain operators do not ask for the identification of passengers, and as a result, it may be difficult to identify someone's age without the introduction of identification checks.
• Potential distraction: If bus drivers are responsible for ensuring the compliance of specific passenger(s), it may compromise their ability to focus on the road as well as pose a personal safety risk to drivers when addressing resistant or non-compliant passengers.
• Enforceability: Policies around child safety and drivers not permitted to touch children would restrict drivers from helping children "buckle up."
• Vehicle design: On double-decker buses, passengers impacted may be outside a bus driver's line of vision.
To address this requirement, MTO is considering providing an exemption for bus drivers from the requirements imposed in s.106(4), similarly to how they are already exempt from the child restraint system requirement. However, given that safety is the government's top priority, MTO is also considering imposing certain added safety requirements as part of any proposed exemption to ensure all passengers are wearing the seat belts provided. Some of the proposed safety requirements being considered include:
• Signage requirements that notify passengers to wear their seat belts/audible announcements reminding passengers of the seat belt requirement.
Overall, Ontario's objective is to create a framework that allows the industry to effectively meet the mandate of the federal government and mitigates the operational burden of the existing requirements, while still ensuring road safety is not compromised by ensuring passengers, especially those under 16, will wear the seat belts provided. We invite you to submit comments on this proposal for MTO's consideration.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
A Regulatory Impact Analysis is currently in progress. Preliminary analysis indicates that this change will impose no new costs to business and will lift an operational burden currently placed on bus drivers by s.106(4). This change allows for operators to avoid having to put into place new operational protocols for identification of passengers under 16 and potentially needing to hire additional staff to monitor passenger seat belt usage on behalf of the driver.
August 23, 2021
Comments Due Date:
September 21, 2021
Ministry of Transportation
Road Safety Program Development Office
Safety Program Development Branch
87 Sir William Hearst Avenue
Building "A", Room 212