A driver could be fined up to $2,000 and lose three points
for not giving emergency crews the right of way.
The punishment is more severe the next time around.
Not only is it a driver’s responsibility to give an emergency crew the right of way when signals and sirens are sounding, but it’s also the law.
In June of 2000, OPP Sgt. Marg Eve died when a tractor trailer crashed into her cruiser as she worked on the shoulder of Hwy 401. Other police, fire and EMS crew have been killed in similar situations. Const. Samantha Rozich serves with Toronto Police Services.
“You hear it all the time. ‘Seconds later’ could have made a difference,” she said. “That time frame is so miniscule and may seem insignificant to some people, but it’s a consequence for emergency vehicles.”
These instances sparked the amendments to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, which now includes more severe punishment for not moving over for an emergency vehicle.
A driver could be fined up to $2,000 and get three demerit points for a first-time offence for not giving emergency crews the right-of-way.
The punishment is more severe the next time around, with a fine up to $4,000, up to two years’ licence suspension and possible jail time.
“When we’re out there and we’re travelling to get to the scene of an emergency, we’re essentially risking our lives,” Const. Rozich said.
“We have a guaranteed arrival, a promise that we make to get there, and as careful as we are, these things happen.”
Rozich became involved in a collision in which the motorist wasn’t paying attention to her signals.
“I was heading to the scene of a traffic fatality,” she said. “I was travelling with my light and sirens blaring… and people weren’t stopping.”
Const. Rozich was struck by another motorist and couldn’t make the call. “It’s frustrating!” she said. “That meant one less police officer that wasn’t there to take control or give assistance.”
A year ago, Toronto fire, police and paramedic officials released an educational video titled Move Over… Protect Us All! It teaches the importance of giving emergency crews the right-of-way on the road.
“[The video] is an eye-opener to what can happen, not only from a police perspective, but all emergency services. It’s a great teaching tool,” Const. Rozich said.
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) also trains drivers how to respond in these situations.
It teaches drivers to understand emergency signals and to move to the side of the road and to stop until all emergency crews have passed. Edyta Zdancewicz speaks for the CAA.
“[Drivers] need to put themselves in the other person’s shoes,” she said. “They also need to understand that driving is a privilege and they’re sharing the road with other people.”