The Alberta government has stalled introducing new rules under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act that are meant to help protect more emergency and transportation workers.
Right now, only traffic in the adjacent lane has to slow to 60 km/h when passing stopped emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. It’s called the “Slow Down Move Over” legislation.
That was set to expand under changes to Bill 5 on Wednesday, March 1, to have more roadside workers protected and force drivers in more lanes to slow down.
But Alberta Transportation said late Tuesday afternoon more time is needed to make drivers aware of the upcoming changes, so things are being pushed back six months.
The province said it will launch a robust education campaign to prevent unnecessary tickets and the amendments will now take effect Sept. 1, 2023.
The Traffic Safety Amendment Act extends safe passing protections for roadside workers to include snowplows and highway maintenance vehicles, in addition to tow trucks and emergency vehicles like police cruisers.
Under the changes, when passing an emergency or roadside maintenance vehicle with flashing light on, drivers would be required to slow down to 60 km/h or the posted speed limit (whichever is lower) in all lanes going in the same direction on divided highways and when traveling in either direction on single lane roadways.
Fines will also double under the changes. Currently, the penalty for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road can range from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.
Members of the transportation industry, including the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), have been pushing for the province to expand the highway safety rules for years.
Last year when announcing the amendments, the province agreed that consistent rules for all roadside workers would reduced confusion for drivers and increases highway safety.
Since December 2019, the Alberta Motor Association reports there have been at least 36 near-misses and 14 serious roadside incidents involving Alberta tow trucks and passing vehicles.
Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.
The province is in the middle of a pilot project allowing tow trucks to be equipped with and activate flashing blue lights to increase their visibility and safety.
The pilot began on June 30, 2022, with the support of the Alberta Chiefs of Police.