Starting March 1 motorists will face stricter speed restrictions to better protect roadside workers in Alberta.
Amendments to the Traffic Safety Act passed last spring means that all motorists traveling in the same direction on multi-lane roads will have to slow down to 60 km/h, or the posted speed limit (whichever is lower), when passing any emergency vehicle, tow truck, road crew and snowplow operators with flashing lights.
Currently, the law only requires drivers in the lane adjacent to the roadside to slow to 60 km/h.
Motorists traveling in either direction on single-lane roads will now also be required to slow down to 60 km/h, or the posted speed limit (whichever is lower), when passing workers with flashing lights.
RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff, who has felt his parked police vehicle shake from traffic whizzing by at highway speeds, said police and their emergency partners working on the roadside have dangerous jobs.
“Vehicles going by at highway speeds do present a real, clear danger for us. Everybody needs to take appropriate care when passing emergency vehicles,” Savinkoff said.
He said people also don’t know why a police vehicle has stopped. It could be to issue a traffic ticket, or it could be a more dynamic situation like an arrest or assisting someone in distress.
“Perhaps it’s a patch of black ice that caused an accident and now you have other people coming up to your vehicle stop and they’re going to experience the same black ice that got the first person into trouble. Then the issue gets compounded and things get extremely dangerous for everyone,” Savinkoff said.
The amendments gives the same protection to roadside maintenance workers and snowplow operators that first responders and tow truck operators already had.
Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of advocacy and operations at Alberta Motor Association, said the new rules will eliminate confusion that was leading to more safety issues for drivers who were slowing down regardless of their lane.
“You could have a vehicle coming up behind you quite quickly and that’s not a safe situation. This just really helps provide very consistent application, a clear understanding as to what it is that we should be doing as motorists when passing a roadside scene,” Kasbrick said.
He said there have been at least 61 near misses and 16 serious roadsides incidents involving tow trucks in Alberta since January 2016.
Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.
“These are real people, real Albertans, serving other Albertans at the side of the road.”
He said the changes to the Traffic Safety Act are an important step so drivers do their part to make sure those workers make it home to their families at the end of the day.
In 2022, fines for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road ranged from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.
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