The Alberta government is amending the Traffic Safety Act to require drivers to slow down to least 60 kilometres an hour when passing stopped roadside worker vehicles with flashing lights.
The proposed changes will give similar protection to roadside maintenance workers and snowplow operators that first responders and tow truck operators currently have under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act.
The changes to Bill 5 will apply to drivers travelling in all lanes in the same direction as the stopped roadside worker vehicle and to drivers travelling in the opposite direction on single-lane highways.
The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) started pushing for the province to expand the highway safety rules in 2017. The AMA suggested the legislation apply to all lanes of travel in the same direction. Under the current legislation, anyone in the lane directly beside a crash must slow down to 60 kilometres per hour while passing emergency crews. It’s called the Slow Down Move Over legislation.
“Near misses and collisions are a regular occurrence for Alberta’s tow truck operators, emergency responders and other roadside workers,” said Michelle Chimko, president and CEO of AMA.
“We applaud these changes as an important first step in improving the safety of these essential workers and look forward to our continued work in further improving their visibility and safety.”
Current fines for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road can range from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.
Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.
The AMA said that since December 2019, there have been 36 near misses and at least 13 serious roadside incidents involving Alberta tow trucks and passing vehicles — collisions resulting in injury, hospitalization and even death.
“Highway maintenance crews throughout our industry provide critical services to our province’s expansive highway and road network, for the benefit of all Albertans,” said Kelly McManus, president of Transportation and Highway Operations with LaPrairie Group.
“It is gratifying to see our government taking deliberate and proactive measures to improve safety for all highway maintenance and roadside personnel.”
The province is planning an educational campaign for drivers prior to the anticipated enforcement date of spring 2023.