Enacted in 2003, the “move over” law is hardly a new one. It’s been extensively reported by media outlets and all Ontario drivers were also personally notified via a notice with every licence or plate renewal letter.
Yet, during my ride-along with York Regional Police recently, virtually no one complied.
Here’s what the law states: Section 159 (2,3) HTA requires motorists approaching, on the same side of the road, a stopped emergency vehicle with red or red/blue lights flashing, to slow down.
If there are multiple lanes in your direction of travel, you must vacate the lane adjacent the emergency vehicle, if it can be done safely.
For example, if there are two lanes in your direction of travel, and police/fire/ambulance are stopped on the right shoulder with lights flashing, drivers approaching in the same direction of travel should move into the far left lane, if it can be done safely. If you can’t move over safely (i.e. would cut-off left lane driver), you must slow down while passing the stopped emergency vehicle.
Similar “move over” laws exist across Canada except in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and Yukon.
Some provinces extend the law to protect tow trucks and “amber light” roadside workers (Ontario does not). Your passing speed may also be legislated, for example, Alberta states 60 km/h maximum, or the posted limit if lower. In Ontario, you must slow to below the posted limit as necessary to avoid endangering roadside personnel.
In the U.S., 49 states have similar laws where drivers must move over or slow down to 20 mph (32 km/h) below the limit.
Despite all efforts to publicize Ontario’s decade old “move over” law via news media, internet, mailings, billboards and police campaigns, I observed near-zero compliance on a night shift with York Police Sgt. Ryan Hogan.
During a roadside traffic stop on Hwy 404, countless motorists illegally zipped past us in the adjacent lane. Only four cars moved over. The rest came within mere centimeters of striking Sgt. Hogan, the police vehicle and/or the stopped violator at well over 100 km/h.
Any contact at those speeds could be fatal to all, including the impacting driver.
On Hwy 7, while stopped in the curb lane, not only did drivers not move away, some even changed lanes so they’d illegally pass alongside. Others didn’t change out of our lane until the last second – which makes it hazardous for drivers behind them who may not see the stopped emergency vehicle ahead in time.
The “move over” violators Sgt. Hogan stopped claimed total ignorance of the law – and that could’ve cost them a $490 fine and three demerit points. But for roadside emergency workers, your failure to comply could cost them their lives.
UPDATE: Two nights later, York Constable Wade Nethercott was struck and injured by a vehicle that failed to move over in Newmarket.
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