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Olds fire chief has concerns about new 'move over' legislation

Justin Andrew says in his personal opinion, new provincial legislation that dials back rules for passing emergency workers on roads and highways is “not adequate" to keep those workers safe
Olds Fire Chief Justin Andrew. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS — Fire chief and director of protective services Justin Andrew says in his personal opinion, new provincial legislation that dials back rules for passing emergency workers on roads and highways is “not adequate.” 

The so called "move over" legislation which took effect Sept. 1, requires drivers in the lane closest to any stopped roadside worker's vehicle that has lights flashing to slow down to 60 kilometres per hour (km/h) or a lower speed if one is posted. 

Drivers will also have to move to the next lane over and take reasonable steps to allow other drivers to do so too. 
The original legislation would have required drivers in all lanes of traffic travelling on the same side of the road as a stopped emergency or roadside worker vehicle to slow down to 60 km/h or the speed limit, whatever is lower, when emergency vehicle lights are flashing.  

That rule would also have applied to vehicles travelling in both directions on highways that only have one lane in each direction. 

“I do personally feel that the recent changes are not adequate for the protection of emergency workers on Alberta highways,” Andrew wrote in an email to the Albertan. 

“When we as first responders operate on highways such as the QEII, in my opinion, it is the most dangerous thing that we currently do as firefighters.  

“We train and have operating procedures in place to maximize the safety of our people, but we are always at the mercy of those who choose not to be attentive and or drive to the conditions and offer courtesy and slow down.  

“There is not a single time that we operate out there where someone -- and in some cases multiple people -- drive by at excessive speed and (do) not move over.  

“The only time when we see significant reduction in speeds is when there is police presence and I feel it is because of the colour of the flashing lights and the potential for someone to get a ticket.  

“The unfortunate part is that when police resources are limited, the officers have a job to do on the emergency scene which limits their ability to monitor and ticket offenders.  

“We have an exceptionally strong relationship with the RCMP and we work collaboratively to provide as much protection for everyone as we can, but it is always limited, due to resources. 

This is a systemic problem and has no easy answer.  

“I feel strongly that the people that work on our roadways in any capacity, be it as construction workers, tow truck operators, highway maintenance, and emergency service workers, deserve to be protected, and imposing tough penalties on offenders is one way to do so.” 

Andrew said he’s aware that the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association has a “unified stance” on the new legislation and is lobbying the provincial government to make changes to it. 


Doug Collie

About the Author: Doug Collie

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