Cops clamping down on unsafe passing

The county OPP is reminding the public about the Move Over legislation.

OPP Constable Jennifer Smith said the West­ern Region OPP, which includes the County of Wellington, are conducting an initiative to increase awareness and take a zero tolerance ap­proach to enforcing this legis­lation.

Emergency workers rou­tine­ly risk their lives to provide assistance to drivers. Enforcing the law and providing roadside assistance is inherently danger­ous for police, fire, and other emergency workers. Emer­gency personnel stopped for an incident at the side of the road are sometimes in danger. Frequently, they are placed in close proximity to vehicles travelling at extremely high rates of speed.

On June 7, 2000, three of­ficers from the OPP pulled over a vehicle suspected in a bank robbery. The OPP cruisers were pulled over and staggered prop­erly and safely on the shoulder of the highway. A transport driver ran into the cruisers, the officers, and suspects. The OPP cruisers were so damaged they were almost unrecognizable as police vehicles. All were rush­ed to hospital with grievous injuries. Sergeant Margaret Eve died from her injuries.

Unfortunately, incidents like that occur routinely all over North America. In particu­lar, officers are too often in­jured or killed in the line of duty on highways. Therefore, several states in the United States, as well as Ontario and Saskatchewan, have enacted the Move Over law to protect officers and other emergency workers.

Eve’s death sparked amend­ments to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requiring drivers to move to the far left lane when passing emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road.

The legislation, which came into effect in April 2003, is to increase both officer and public safety. Ontario’s Highway Traf­fic Act requires motorists, when approaching a police, fire, or ambulance vehicle stop­ped with its emergency lights flashing in the same direction of travel, either in a lane or on the shoulder of a road or highway, to slow down and pass with caution.

If the road has two or more lanes, the motorist must move over into another lane, if it can be done safely. If a motorist can’t move over, the driver must slow down to a reason­able speed. Failing to do so can result in the following:

– first offence, $400 to $2,000 fine, plus three demerit points upon conviction and possible suspension of driver’s license for up to two years; and

– subsequent offence (within five years of the first), $1,000 to $4,000 fine, possible jail time up to six months and possible suspension of driver’s license for up to two years.

Since 1989, five OPP offi­cers have been killed on pro­vincial highways while parked at the side of the road.

In this past year, at least six OPP officers have been in­volved in incidents where they were either hit by a vehicle or their cruiser was hit while they were parked on the side of the road, with their lights activated.

“Many motorists don’t recognize the high risk front-line police officers can face during routine traffic stops,” Smith said.

“They don’t think that an officer pulling off to the side of the highway to issue a speeding ticket or to investigate an accident is a dangerous part of their job – but history has shown us that it can be.”