The Wallace District fire chief welcomes Wednesday's announcement of highway signs to remind drivers to slow down and move over when passing emergency crews. But Brad Yochim says the move is overdue.
Yochim sits on the Manitoba Safe Roads committee which, he says, was involved in getting the signs approved by the Manitoba government. “I have been pushing for signs to be erected at each provincial border as travellers enter Manitoba so I am hoping they do that.
“In my opinion, it is eight years past due as these should have been put up when the law came into effect.”
That sentiment was echoed by Staff Sgt. Kyle McFadyen of the Manitoba RCMP Traffic Services.
“Slow Down, Move Over laws have been in effect in Manitoba for eight years, yet our officers have encountered many close calls due to drivers not abiding by the law. Having more signage and messaging will ensure more people are aware of the law and its importance.”
Pressure has also been applied by rural ambulance services, first responders, tow truck operators and other officials who continue to report near misses and reckless driving around emergency vehicles at the scene of accidents or fires.
In the winter of 2015, Yochim himself experienced it firsthand.
He was getting equipment out of his vehicle at a crash on the TransCanada Highway when a vehicle that failed to slow down and move over struck him, propelling him through the air and into the snowy ditch. It was a close call that remarkably resulted in no major injuries.
Then last November, 2018, a firefighter with the Whitehead Fire Department was responding to a crash on the TransCanada west of Brandon when roads were icy. A vehicle slammed into the back of a firetruck which hurled him into the ditch.
A week later, an RCMP officer was hit by a speeding driver near Elie, and a week after that, a firefighter was killed by a semi truck near Rosetown, Sask. while responding to a crash between two other semis.
Fire Chief Kelly Crosson described to a CBC news reporter what first responders are up against: “Sometimes they see you, they hit the brakes and their trailers are sliding sideways down the highway. You just run into the ditch and hope to hell that the trailer isn't going to hit you on the way by.”
Earlier this week, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler announced the new set of highway signs to be erected along Manitoba highways to remind drivers of the so-called "slow down, move over" law.
The Highway Traffic Act requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles, motor carrier enforcement and tow trucks when their lights are flashing.
On roads where the speed limit is less than 80 km/h, they have to slow down to 40. At highway speeds of 80 or more, they have to slow down to 60 km/h. On multi-lane highways, drivers have to move to the next lane if they can and pass only if it’s safe.
The fine for not obeying any of those requirements is $298 and two demerits.