Emergency responders in Hamilton launched a month-long campaign Thursday aimed at improving awareness and enforcing Ontario’s “move over” law.
The law, enacted in 2003, requires motorists to safely move over a lane or slow down before passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped roadside with lights activated.
“Ontario drivers still don’t understand that every time emergency services personnel or a tow truck driver gets out of their cruiser, there is a high likelihood of something bad happening,” said Hamilton police officer Claus Wagner, pointing anecdotally to a number of alarming situations that prompted the campaign.
“I’ve been on scenes where you’re in command and you’re trying to take care of your paramedics and you hear that screeching noise in the background and everyone just tenses up,” said Superintendent Dave Thompson with Hamilton Paramedic Services.
A few years before the law was enacted, Thompson said his foot was run over by a car while he was on the scene of an emergency at King Street East and Nash Road.
Just last year, Wagner says a tow truck operator was securing a disabled vehicle on Nikola Tesla Boulevard when it was struck by another vehicle from behind, causing injury. The driver of the disabled vehicle later died as result.
Hamilton first responders say they do what they can to provide scene safety by wearing reflective gear and by staggering vehicles to provide a barrier from the road. But they stress that compliance with the move over law is critical when it comes to preventing injury or death. That’s why education will be a large part of the campaign.
Since 1989, five members of the Ontario Provincial Police have died from being struck or from having their vehicle hit by a passing motorist.
The number of related charges continues to climb.
OPP statistics show 2,443 move-over related charges in 2016, more than double the 1,181 charges in 2011.
Hamilton police say they haven’t tracked tickets to date, but plan to start doing so, as enforcement will be part of the campaign.
Drivers who fail to comply with the move over law could face a $490 fine and three demerit points upon conviction.