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Is it illegal to ride facing backwards on the TTC?

Published November 14, 2012
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Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: As a kid riding the TTC, my mom often would warn us that we had to sit properly in the seats on the bus. She said it’s against the law if we faced rearward. I’ve always wondered if this is true for all vehicles. Can you clarify?

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A: I suspect it was just a ploy by mom to gain compliance from her children, much like some parents point out police – much to the chagrin of officers – and warn the kids they’ll get arrested if they don’t behave and obey mom and dad.

First off, there is no HTA seatbelt requirement on public transit vehicles not originally manufactured with seatbelts. Passengers may lawfully sit or stand facing any direction. Some bus and streetcar seats face inward toward the aisle, and in subways, some seats face rearward (though subways are outside HTA jurisdiction).

In passenger vehicles with seatbelts, children under 9 kg (20 lbs) are required to sit in properly secured rear-facing infant seats under the law. Some larger vehicles have rear-facing pop-up seats with seatbelts, and the oddball 1978-1987 Subaru Brat (half car/half pickup) had rear-facing jump seats in the pickup bed.

Generally, passengers in motor vehicles in Ontario must occupy a seatbelt-equipped seating position with the belt properly fastened. So, you’d normally have to sit facing forward, unless it’s a rear or side facing seat. Excess passengers may not sit in the cargo area of an SUV, for example, once all seats are filled.

In an RV being driven on public roads, persons may occupy non-seatbelt equipped positions (at the kitchen table, for example) after all seats with seatbelts are occupied.

Despite the normal requirement to limit passengers to the number of available seatbelts, there is an exemption that allows persons to ride in the back of pickup trucks unsecured. This exemption remains so that farmers, and others, may lawfully transport personnel using pickups. These are typically short trips in and around farm property.

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