By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Despite a media blitz prior to the Civic Day long weekend, Ontario Provincial Police report a substantial number of drivers continue to fail to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles.
The OPP laid more than 400 charges across Ontario throughout a four-day period over the long weekend.
The Move Over law requires motorists to slow down when approaching stopped emergency vehicles, such as police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and tow trucks, and to move over a lane if it can be done safely.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, drivers are also required to pull over and stop when preceding or approaching an emergency vehicle with its lights and/or sirens activated.
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP Highway Safety Division says it’s frustrating to see so many motorists failing to recognize a law that been in existence for 15 years.
“It is disappointing that the overall numbers that we see continue to climb,” he says.
The number of charges related to the law more than doubled between 2011 and 2016, with 2,443 charges being laid last year.
There were also at least 11 incidents in 2016 where police vehicles were struck from behind while pulled over with emergency lights activated.
While that may not seem like an extraordinarily high number, Schmidt notes it is something that is in the back of every police officer’s mind when they pull someone over.
“This is our workplace, it’s where we spend our day,” Schmidt says. “It can be pretty terrifying.”
Schmidt says motorists passing by a parked emergency vehicle should remember “their driving behaviour goes a long way to keep us safe and able to go home to our families.”
As for the reasons why these types of charges continue to climb, Schmidt says it really doesn’t matter at this point.
“Slowing down should just be the most common sense thing to do. You often see people totally ignore the requirements under the law when there is some type of emergency vehicle pulled over.”
In a media release sent out before the long weekend, OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair stated that with the Move Over law now 15 years old, “it has long shed its label as ‘Ontario’s little known law’, making driver ignorance a poor excuse for non-compliance.”
“When we stop people, they say they didn’t realize it’s really the law that you have to do so [slow down or pull over],” Schmidt says. “That may just be an excuse. There are signs everywhere and it’s something that is constantly in the media.”
The law carries fines between $400 to $2,000 plus three demerit points upon conviction, with subsequent offences within five years resulting in fines between $1,000 to $4,000, possible jail time up to six months and possible driver’s license suspension for up to two years.