Slow down and move over when emergency vehicles are on the road - it's the law

Slow down, move over

B.C.’s Slow Down, Move Over law came into effect more than two decades ago.

When an official vehicle is stopped at the side of the highway and displaying flashing lights, —red, blue or yellow—approaching traffic is required to slow down and move over. The law is meant to provide a safe workspace for the emergency and roadside workers.

What is an official vehicle? According to the Motor Vehicle Act, section 47.01 (1) “In this Division, ‘official vehicle’ means a vehicle that is authorized under section 4.28 to display flashes of red, blue, white or amber light." Section 47.01 (2) says despite subsection (1), a school bus is not an official vehicle "for the purposes of this Division."

Examples of official vehicles include emergency vehicles such as police, ambulance and fire apparatus. Maintenance and utility vehicles are included too. Tow trucks, road maintenance vehicles, public utility vehicles and roadside repair vehicles qualify under this law.

The slow down half of the law requires overtaking motorists to slow to 70 km/h on highways posted at 80 km/h and higher and to 40 km/h in all other speed zones. Perhaps another way to think of this law would be the 70 / 40 rule with 80 km/h being the dividing line.

The move over portion requires that if it is safe to do so, you will move into the unoccupied adjacent lanes. This could mean the adjacent lane in the same direction if there are multiple lanes, or the oncoming lane if there are not.

Remember, if you have to use the oncoming lane, you have no lawful excuse to encroach on it when there is oncoming traffic.

You are required to move out of the lane adjacent to the official vehicle only if it is safe to do so. If moving over would create a danger to other road users, you are only required to slow down.

There are penalties for failing to slow down or move over. A violation ticket for either of these offences will cost a driver $173 and net him or her three penalty points.

I have come across road maintenance vehicles parked near the roadside, lights flashing, with the operator working well off the road where there is no danger from passing traffic. This may be from force of habit rather than conscious thought, but flashing lights should not be turned on when there is no danger present.

Police vehicle operators may also choose to move their stop to a safer location once they make their initial approach to the violator.

If you are being pulled over by police using only their flashing lights but without the siren, you should choose to stop in a safe spot instead of immediately pulling over. Regardless, it is still up to approaching drivers to slow down and move over.

It is Your responsibility to be safe. If you read case law, the judge will often mention is your responsibility as a driver to be able to respond safely to situations that may reasonably be encountered on the highway.

A slow down, move over situation is one of them.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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