AMA: Slow Down for Emergency Personnel on the Road

There was a close call for RCMP and a tow truck driver near Lake Louise this week that prompts the need to reiterate the law protecting those who work on our roadways.

By Sonu Purha, AMA

On a summer day in 2009, a tow truck pulled to the side of an Edmonton highway with its warning lights flashing. Soon after, a speeding car plowed into it, killing the truck driver on impact. Just a few weeks later, another tow operator was killed in a similar collision in Calgary.

• “There are way too many of these types of incidents taking place on Alberta roads,” says Randy Loyk, AMA technical services manager. “People are driving too fast in construction or emergency zones. They slam on their brakes at the last minute and lose control of their vehicles. And it can be fatal.”

Operators of ambulances, police cars, fire engines and tow trucks rely on the commuters around them to keep roads clear so that they can do their jobs. But as Loyk’s examples demonstrate, many drivers ignore, or are unaware of, road rules relating to emergency situations, and that puts everyone at risk. Fortunately, there are several ways you can help keep emergency workers safe – and serious consequences if you don’t.

Give Us Room to Work

AMA and emergency services representatives across the province work together under the banner of Give Us Room to Work, an initiative that aims to reduce risk to emergency services personnel working on Alberta roads by reminding drivers to slow down when passing.

“We want drivers to be actively aware of making roads safer for service workers,” says Carrie Herrick-Fitzgerald, program coordinator for AMA advocacy and community services. “That’s the best way we can all help them do their jobs.”

The Rules

In 2005, the Alberta government amended its Traffic Safety Act to support Give Us Room to Work. Under the revised legislation, drivers in the lane closest to stopped emergency services vehicles or tow trucks whose lights are flashing must slow to 60 km/hr – or less if the posted speed is lower. When approaching a collision or roadside assistance scene such as a vehicle breakdown, slow down and move over one lane if possible. Always leave plenty of space between your car, emergency workers and any equipment or vehicles involved. Stifle the urge to gawk; instead, keep both eyes on the road ahead. Pay attention to hand signals and commands given by workers who may be directing traffic. And stay vigilant: cars ahead of you may stop unexpectedly.

Fines and Penalties

If you speed through an emergency or roadside assistance scene, it’ll cost you: driving one to 15 km/h over the posted speed limit will net you two demerits and a fine of $115 to $179; 16 to 30 km/h over nets you three demerits and a fine of $207 to $354; and at 31 to 50 km/h over, you’ll receive four demerits and pay up to $703. At more than 50 km/h over, you’re look-ng at a mandatory court appearance and six demerits.

Though we look to emergency workers to protect us and keep our roads safe, we need to return the favour. “Firefighters, police, paramedics and tow truck operators have dangerous jobs, with workplaces located at the side of busy roads,” says Herrick-Fitzgerald. “Just like the rest of us, they deserve to return home safely after every shift.”

Construction Zones

Construction zones involve risks to workers that are similar to those of emergency areas. And like emergency areas, speeding fines are double where workers are present. When navigating these zones, reduce your speed — even in the absence of construction activity. Note that signs instructing you to slow down “where workers are present” can refer to areas where personnel are operating heavy equipment, working with hand tools or flagging. Finally, watch for workers hidden from view behind large equipment or building materials.

Under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, if the lights on stopped emergency vehicles or tow trucks are flashing, drivers in the lane closest must slow down to 60 km/h or less. Learn more about Give Us Room to Work at AMA.

This article is from the AMA Westworld magazine. Read more great articles here.

(Source: Alberta Motor Association)