Posts Tagged ‘emergency vehicles’
Emergency workers are very happy with BC’s new slow down, move over law that came into effect June 1, 2009. When they are 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. This will provide a safe workspace for the emergency workers and hopefully also for those who are driving past.
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. My guess is that when this speed is enforced, very little, if any, wiggle room will be allowed. If you choose not to slow down to at least match the limit if not a bit less, you choose to risk a ticket.
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.
Will the law increase safety? Only if drivers think and then act before they approach closely. Many times in the past I have watched vehicles overtake my stationary police car at or over the speed limit a foot from my door instead of slowing down and moving into the empty lane.
We had a red light and the cross traffic had a green, however at the same time there was also a small blue light right next to the red traffic light which was flashing. For several minutes traffic in all directions remained stopped as it appeared that none of us knew what this was all about. There were no emergency vehicles coming through.
What this reader is most likely describing is a set of traffic signals that were responding to an approaching emergency vehicle that never arrived at the intersection.
Traffic signals in British Columbia that include a speaker and pair of small blue and white lights on the crossbar beside the signal head will sense the approach of and grant priority to approaching emergency vehicles sounding a siren with a certain pattern. If you see a blue light, the emergency vehicle is either on the cross street or is coming toward you. If you see a white light, it is overtaking you from the rear.
These lights will flash to signify that the regular traffic signals are in the process of changing to grant the emergency vehicles a clear path. When they are on steady, it means that the signals have changed and will be green for the approaching emergency vehicles and red for all other directions of travel.
Traffic at the intersection facing a red must remain stopped for emergency vehicles to pass. Those facing the green must also stop but do so in a manner that allows free passage through the intersection.
Once the emergency vehicles have passed, the blue and white lights will turn off and traffic signal operation will return to normal.
I was recently told a story by driver who stopped at an intersection and when checking for cross traffic was surprised to find a truck laying on the drivers side a short distance away. This driver assessed the situation and concluded that it had happened within the last few moments, a number of people had stopped to help and it appeared that the driver was out and shaken but unhurt. He turned right and drove away from the scene.
As he accelerated, he noticed another vehicle that was overtaking him rapidly headlights flashing and the driver gesticulating wildly. When the overtaking driver began to tailgate him closely and continue to flash the headlights he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and pulled over to let the vehicle past.
The agitated driver sped off and within a couple of blocks pulled into the fire department parking lot. He was medical first response for the pickup rollover! He was also driving his personal vehicle as if it were an emergency vehicle and he was wrong to do this. Not only did he confuse other traffic, had he caused a collision he might find that his insurance would not cover his vehicle for this use.
The only way this volunteer firefighter is authorized to disregard the rules of the road is when he is showing a flashing red light and sounding a siren. Otherwise, he must follow the road rules just the same way you and I are required to, emergency or not.
I admire our firefighters for the job that they do, but I worry when I hear stories like this. Everyone was at risk for a situation that did not require it. Of course, he could not know this, but I wonder if anyone told him what I was told when I started my job as a police officer: “you can’t help if you don’t get there.”
Beyond Media, Inc.