New law protects emergency workers in Ontario

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TORONTO, Ont. — Drivers who fail to pull over or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles stopped by the roadside will be subject to fines and possibly jail terms under legislation that took effect April 3, 2003.

Bill 191, an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, is aimed at protecting police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel on Ontario’s highways.

It requires drivers who encounter the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles pulled over on the shoulder of a road to slow down and, where possible and safe to do so, move to another lane.

“By forcing drivers to slow down and move over, we are protecting those who protect us,” says Bob Runciman, minister of public safety and security. “We all benefit when these dedicated workers are able to do their job efficiently and without having to worry about their personal safety.”

The legislation applies to all stopped vehicles, excluding school buses, with flashing red lights.

“We have lost four officers in Ontario in recent years when they or their vehicles have been stopped at the side of the road,” says Bruce Miller, of the Police Association of Ontario. “This new legislation will help to protect both front-line police officers and the citizens they serve. We believe that it will go a long way to help prevent further tragedies.”

Those convicted of disobeying the law for the first time will be subject to a fine of between $400 and $2,000. For second and subsequent convictions, the offender will be fined from $1,000 to $4,000 or get six months in jail, or receive both a fine and jail sentence.

All convictions will result in the addition of three demerit points to a driver’s record, and driver’s licences can also be suspended for up to two years.

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