“I saw the money fine first and I was just like, ‘what happened?’” Meagan Schmock told A Current Affair. “It was $1,161 and four demerit points. I was gobsmacked. I was shocked.” It was then that she spotted the image of herself accompanying the fine.
Sitting in the passenger seat beside her husband, on the way back from their honeymoon on the Gold Coast, Meagan had felt the need to pump. “I was getting quite engorged and it was getting incredibly uncomfortable for me,” she said. “To have to sit in the car for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, waiting to get home to feed my little one, it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Meagan added that any other mums who have breastfed, or who have used a pump before, would know that “you can’t just really wait”.
In order to relieve herself, the young mum quickly slipped the seatbelt underneath her arm so she could unhook her breast pump. She said her seatbelt remained clipped in the whole time. But it was at that moment the camera flashed and landed Meagan’s husband with an infringement notice for driving with a passenger who failed to wear their seatbelt correctly.
Breastfeeding mothers should pull over
The couple are now disputing the fine, and say they’re looking into a potential seatbelt exemption due to a medical condition. But their prospects aren’t looking good.
While the Department of Transport and Main Roads said a doctor can issue a seatbelt exemption certificate on medical grounds, expressing breast milk is not included in the guidelines as a suitable reason.
“Should a new mother need to express breast milk, they or their driver should stop and park safely before commencing,” a spokesperson said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia. “The risk of injury or death of the parent in a crash far outweighs any efficiency created by pumping while driving.”
The spokesperson went on to add that a correctly adjusted and fitted seatbelt is proven to reduce the risk of serious injury in a crash by 50 per cent and death by 45 per cent. Meanwhile incorrect or non-seatbelt use is a known factor in almost one in three lives lost on Queensland roads each year.
Caught out twice in two weeks
Earlier this year, a dad in Queensland was slapped with a $2,156 fine after his 13-year-old daughter was caught wearing her seatbelt incorrectly on two separate occasions. In an image shared online of the incidents, the young girl can be seen with the seatbelt slipped underneath her arm.
“Just received two x $1078 fines plus total eight demerit points, only two weeks apart, for my 13yo daughter not wearing her seatbelt correctly,” the father wrote on Facebook at the time. “Had no idea that she was wearing it that way as can’t see from [the] driver’s point of view."
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.