Slow Down and Move Over Laws: Protecting Those Who Protect You

Author: Allan Foran

This post was written prior to our January 2017 merger, under our previous firm name, Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP.

We have all encountered an ambulance or a police vehicle stopped on the side of the road with its emergency lights flashing while driving on the highway. Over the past decade most provinces and territories (except Newfoundland, Nunavut and Yukon) have enacted laws governing the passing of stationary police, ambulance, and firefighting vehicles with lights flashing, often called ‘slow down and move-over’ laws. Many drivers are uncertain of what action to take as the requirements of the various ‘slow down and move over’ laws vary from province to province including what types of vehicles are covered by the laws.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, a driver approaching or passing a stopped emergency vehicle in either direction must slow down to 70 km/h if the posted speed limit is 80km/h or higher or down to 40km/h if the posted speed limit is less than 80/km/h. If the driver is passing the emergency vehicle from the opposite direction on a highway that contains a laned roadway or is a divided highway, he or she does not need to slow down below the posted speed limit. In addition, a driver traveling in a lane adjacent to the emergency vehicle or in the same lane must, if it is safe to do so, move his or her vehicle into another lane.

Alberta

In Alberta, a driver travelling in the same direction as a stopped emergency vehicle must slow down to 60km/h or the posted speed limit, whichever is lower, when passing the emergency vehicle unless there are two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction as the emergency vehicle and there is at least one lane between the driver’s vehicle and the emergency vehicle.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, a driver must slow down to 60km/h or less when passing an emergency vehicle. A driver need not reduce his or her speed where he or she is on a divided highway and on the opposite roadway as the emergency vehicle.

Manitoba

In Manitoba, a driver is required to slow down and proceed with caution when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. A driver is only permitted to pass a stationary emergency vehicle where it is safe to do so. In addition, if the driver is travelling in the same lane or a lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle on a highway with more than one lane for traffic on the same side of the highway, he or she will be required to vacate the lane if it can be done safely.

The Manitoba legislature is currently considering a bill which would amend The Highway Traffic Act by imposing speed limits for vehicles passing stationary emergency vehicles. Under the proposed new rules a driver approaching or passing a stopped official vehicle in either direction will be required slow down to 60 km/h if the posted speed limit is 80km/h or more or down to 40km/h if the posted speed limit is less than 80/km/h. A driver traveling in the opposite direction of the stopped emergency vehicle will also be required to provide a buffer lane to a stopped emergency vehicle where such a lane is available.

Ontario

A driver travelling in the same direction of an emergency vehicle in Ontario must slow down and proceed with caution, having regard to the traffic on the highway, the condition of the highway and the weather conditions. In addition, if the driver is travelling in the same lane or a lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle on a highway with more than one lane for traffic on the same side of the highway, he or she may be required to vacate the lane if it can be done safely.

Quebec

As of August 2012, drivers in Quebec are required to slow down to a safe speed when approaching and passing stationary emergency vehicles. A driver must also provide a buffer lane to a stopped emergency vehicle, and if necessary, stopping themselves until they are able to move into another lane. In the case of a two lane roadway, a driver will be required to stop and yield to oncoming traffic when moving over to provide a buffer lane to the emergency vehicle.

Prince Edward Island

When approaching or passing a stopped emergency vehicle a driver must slow down to half of the posted speed limit. In addition, if the driver is travelling in the same lane or a lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle on a highway with more than one lane for traffic on the same side of the highway, he or she may be required to vacate the lane if it can be done safely.

New Brunswick

As of January 1, 2013, the province of New Brunswick adopted ‘slow down and move over’ laws which mirror those currently in force in Ontario.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, a driver must slow down to 60km/h (or the posted speed limit if lower) when passing a stopped emergency vehicle unless the highway is divided by a median into separate roadways and the driver’s vehicle is traveling on the opposite roadway. In addition, if the driver is travelling in the same lane or a lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle on a highway with more than one lane for traffic on the same side of the highway, he or she will be required to vacate the lane if it can be done safely.

Northwest Territories

When a driver is approaching a stopped emergency or enforcement vehicle, he or she must slow down to half the posted speed limit when 120 meters from the emergency vehicle.

The above summary highlights the care that must be taken when passing stationary emergency vehicles with emergency lights flashing. Take care or you may find yourself facing a steep fee and possible demerits.

Published in the Western Canada Highway News, Summer 2013 Issue

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.

Allan is a partner with Aikins Law and practises in the area of transportation law. His direct line is 204.957.4664.