West Shore RCMP traffic officers are out in full force this month, reminding motorists to obey the law requiring them to slow down and move over when they see any flashing lights. Unfortunately, it’s not just first responders who know what can happen when passing motorists get distracted and get too close.
Westshore Towing Ltd. owner Dave LeQuesne has been in the towing industry since he graduated high school in the mid-1980s. He said without the visible presence of flashing red lights and first responders, many drivers don’t bother to move over.
“It’s different when we’re out there by ourselves,” he said, adding that some motorists even yell and make rude gestures at workers when they block a lane to make the area safer to work in. “It’s just a matter of time before one of us gets hurt and by then it’s too late.”
He said the chances of someone coming home after being struck by a vehicle traveling 80 km/h on the highway is very unlikely. “It’s not your normal nine to five office.”
The “slow down and move over” law was amended in January to include all official vehicles, not just first responders. If you see red, blue or yellow flashing lights, you must slow down and move away from the parked vehicles when safe. If traveling on a road with a speed limit of 80 km/h or greater, drivers must slow down to 70 km/h or less. If the posted speed limit is less than 80 km/h you must slow to 40 km/h.
Many people don’t understand the relatively new law and how it impacts everyone working the white line, not just first responders, LeQuesne said. “It’s hard when you’re out on the road.”
His experience on the side of the road isn’t just limited to a tow truck. He also served with Langford Fire Rescue and grew up around the fire hall. He was actually in a fire truck, backing it into the station with all of the lights flashing, when it was struck by another motorist on the road.
“We’re just too busy,” he said of drivers in general. “We don’t focus on what we should be doing when we’re driving. People need to get back to the basics.”
Police will be on roadsides reminding drivers of those basics and that moving over creates a buffer from traffic, minimizing the chances of someone being hit – and they’ll be handing out stiff fines to those who don’t listen. This targeted enforcement is the focus of the West Shore RCMP in October, as well as continuing to remind motorists of the consequences of distracted driving.
Detachment spokesperson Const. Alex Berube said it is critical for drivers to understand that official vehicles are not just emergency responders, they also include tow trucks, commercial vehicle safety enforcement inspectors, constructions crews and highway maintenance crews, among others.
“This law exists for the safety of roadside workers, first responders and those in need of help,” Berube said.
He reminded that if drivers fail to slow down and move over they could face a fine of $173 and three penalty points on their license. But other consequences could be much worse.