If you’ve driven on just about any public roadway in Canada, you’ve unfortunately come across emergency vehicles responding to an accident. It can be dangerous for responders to exit their vehicles on busy roadways. In response to a number of collisions and close-calls, the Move Over Laws have been enacted to help protect emergency responders while on duty. Although Ontario was one of the first to enact these laws, residents seem to be unaware of the protocols. As a result, Ontario drivers have been increasingly ticketed for failing to move over for emergency vehicles when they are required to do so. So, what should you do if you approach an ambulance, police car or fire truck? Read on to learn more about the Move Over Law in Ontario.

What is the Move Over Law?

Move over laws are necessary to protect law enforcement officers and other first responders who are working on the side of the road. The Move Over Law in Ontario, or Section 159 (2,3) of the Highway Traffic Act, requires drivers to slow down and move over one lane when passing an emergency vehicle or tow truck with its lights flashing. The law applies to all drivers on roads with a speed limit of 80 km/h or less. When approaching an emergency vehicle that is stopped with its lights activated, you must:

  1. Slow: Slow down and move (if safe and possible) into another lane.
  2. Signal: Use your turn signal to let other drivers know you are changing lanes.
  3. Side: Move to the right side of the road, clear of any intersections.
  4. Stop: If you cannot safely move over, stop your vehicle before reaching the emergency vehicle or before ti passes.

When the emergency vehicle has passed, check to make sure the way is clear and signal before merging back into traffic.

It is important to know that you will be charged if you are caught failing to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles or tow trucks that are stopped with sirens or flashing lights.

Types of emergency vehicles

When driving, be sure to pay attention to emergency vehicles on the road with you. These vehicles may include:

  • Police cars
  • Firetrucks
  • Ambulances, and
  • Tow trucks*

* In 2015, after many years of advocating on this issue, CAA and other safety groups were successful in getting the government to include tow trucks in the Slow Down, Move Over legislation. The law previously only applied to traditional emergency vehicles and had been on the books since 2003. Specifically, the legislations states when you approach an emergency vehicle with flashing red lights, red and blue lights, or a tow truck with flashing amber lights stopped on the side of the road, you’re required by law to slow down and proceed with caution.

How to move over safely on different types of roads? 

Here are some tips on how to move over safely on different types of roads:

1. On highways

If you’re on a highway, the best thing to do is not to block the shoulder lane or keep driving on. Pull as close to the right lane as possible. Be sure to use your turn signal so that other drivers will know what you’re doing.

2. On multi-lane roads

When you’re on the road with two or more lanes, you should always try to move over to the far lane, if possible. This will give you more space and make it easier for other drivers to see you. If you can’t move over, stay in your lane and be extra careful.

3. At intersections

If you’re approaching an intersection, it’s usually best to stay in your lane and don’t turn left if an emergency vehicle pulls near you. However, if you need to turn left, you should try to move into the left turning lane, when/if possible. This will help you make your turn easily and more safely. After that, you can proceed straight and then pull to the right and stop.

4. On a one-way street

When you’re on a one-way street, you should always try to pull to the right side of the road (or to the left side when the right isn’t possible.)

FYI: When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle, slow down and pass with caution. If a road has two or more lanes, you must leave a lane of space between you and the emergency vehicle, if you can do so safely.

Penalties for violating the Move Over Law in Ontario

If you violate the Move Over Law in Ontario, you may be subject to a fine and demerit points. You may also face jail time if you are involved in an accident that injures or kills someone. Drivers can face the following penalties:

First offence

  1. The ticket for violating the Move Over Law in Ontario, Canada, is between $400 and $2,000.
  2. Three demerit points will be added to your driving record if you are found guilty.
  3. You can also face possible suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years.

Subsequent offences (within five years)

  1. Fines ranging from $1,000 to $4,000.
  2. Three demerit points, if convicted.
  3. Possible jail time of up to six months.
  4. Possible suspension of driver’s licence for up to two years.

Provinces across the country have their own rules and regulations regarding moving over for emergency vehicles. Always familiarize yourself with the laws of the place you are driving in before getting behind the wheel.

Tips for moving for an emergency vehicle

If you are driving and see an emergency vehicle approaching from behind with its lights on, you should know what to do. Here are some tips for moving over for an emergency vehicle:

  • Stay alert: Avoid driving distracted and keep your eyes on the road at all times. Check your mirrors and look in front and on both sides of your vehicle.
  • If possible, pull over to the right side of the road and stop.
  • If you cannot pull over safely, slow down and try to move over as far as possible.
  • Remain calm and focus on driving safely.
  • Be sure to signal before you change lanes, and always yield to the emergency vehicle.
  • If you are in heavy traffic, do not try to move over. Just stay in your lane and allow the emergency vehicle to pass.
  • Never block an intersection. This can cause traffic disruptions and put people in danger.
  • Always give emergency vehicles the right of way, and never try to outrun them.
  • Do not follow. It’s illegal to follow a fire vehicle or ambulance responding to a call within 150 metres.

Move over laws are in place to protect emergency workers and tow truck operators who are working on the side of the road. These laws require drivers to slow down and move over, if possible, when approaching these first responders. Failure to do so can result in a fine, demerit points or even jail time. Remember, the best thing you can do is to be aware of your surroundings and drive safely.

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