Woman with breast cancer fined $380 for wearing an altered seatbelt

By Vanessa Brown

The woman had altered her seat belt with a bulldog clip to alleviate the pressure on her scars. Photo / News Corp Australia.
The woman had altered her seat belt with a bulldog clip to alleviate the pressure on her scars. Photo / News Corp Australia.

It was a regular Friday afternoon when Lin Riley was pulled over for a Random Breath Test on Oxford Street, near Sydney's Centennial Park.

Knowing she hadn't consumed a drop of alcohol that day, the 68-year-old wound down her window and presented her licence to the police officer.

"When the officer gave it back to me, he stopped and said, 'What are you doing? What do you have on your seatbelt?'" Mrs Riley told news.com.au

What caught the officer's eye was a one-inch bulldog clip attached to the seatbelt retractor above her right shoulder. The reason for the clip was to alleviate the pain the belt caused to her left-hand side, because of a recent breast cancer-related operation.

Three years ago, Mrs Riley was informed she had cancer, and was required to have various treatments on her left breast, which resulted in a mastectomy.

In September 2015, one of her implants ruptured and she subsequently suffered from lymphedema, which created significant swelling to her left side and caused discomfort with pressure and pain.

Her seatbelt, in its regular form, applied "great discomfort" to her chest when driving - and so to alleviate the pain, she placed the bulldog clip at the retractor above her right shoulder.

"The belt made it very uncomfortable to drive, so when I didn't have a passenger or I couldn't catch public transport, I put a bulldog clip where the seatbelt comes out of the roller," she said.

"It just lifts the belt away from my chest just a small amount so it doesn't go tight across my left side and cause me pain."

After the officer noted the clip, Mrs Riley explained her condition and why she needed relief from the seatbelt.

"He said to me: 'That's not my problem,'" she said.

The police officer chose to fine her A$360 for altering her seat belt. Photo / News Corp Australia
The police officer chose to fine her A$360 for altering her seat belt. Photo / News Corp Australia

"I told him and showed him that I still had the belt on, and the officer just said that my issues weren't his problem.

"He asked me to pull over to the side of the road, and another officer walked over to my car and asked why I was still there. I explained to the him about my breast cancer and my seatbelt, and that officer didn't care either."

Mrs Riley pleaded with the officers that she would take the clip off the seatbelt, but they insisted what she had done was "a breach and they had to fine her for incorrectly wearing a seatbelt".

"The officer walked away with my licence, and kept me waiting for 35 minutes," she said.

"Then when he returned with the ticket, he said, 'I've done you a favour, and the ticket will only be for $360.'

"I was so cross and upset by how rude they were to me. I showed it to my son, and I was just in tears."

Mrs Riley, who admitted she didn't have a doctor's certificate with her to prove she had breast cancer, said she had no idea she needed permission to make a small alteration to her belt if it meant she was out of pain.

"It's unsafe to be driving in that sort of pain. I was on my own and didn't have someone in the car to help," she said.

"It's just really unfortunate because the officers were so rude and not understanding of my situation. When they said my health problems weren't their problems ... that really upset me to be frank."

After the incident, Mrs Riley, who is a learning resource developer went to her oncologist who said they had "never heard of a story like it" and provided her with a doctor's certificate to help fight the fine.

"Basically, the officer said my only option to dispute the ticket was to get a doctor's certificate, and take the matter to court," she said.

"If I was going around without a seatbelt, I would completely understand the fine and pay it. But this was just a minor alteration."

According to NSW Transport, Mrs Riley had in fact broken the law because she didn't have a medical certificate with her at the time of infringement.

"Drivers or passengers may be exempt from wearing a seatbelt if they carry a medical certificate saying that a seatbelt cannot be worn due to a medical condition," a Transport NSW spokesman said.

"According to NSW road rules, all drivers and passengers are required to wear an approved seatbelt. Tampering with an approved seatbelt may mean it no longer meets compliance standards.

"Modification to an approved seatbelt can reduce the performance of the safety features and increase the likelihood of an injury during a crash.

"Enforcing road rules is the responsibility of the NSW Police Force."

After being contacted by news.com.au, a police spokesman said they had been in contact with Mrs Riley and "the issue is being resolved".

"They were very apologetic about what had happened," Mrs Riley said.

The spokesman was unable to advise how they would be assisting Mrs Riley with the fine.

- news.com.au

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