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Passing Stationary Emergency Vehicles on the Highway

Many Canadians take advantage of the warm summer months to travel across Canada using our highways. We have all been in situations when driving on the highway where we have encountered stationary emergency vehicles with their emergency lights activated. Many drivers are uncertain of what action to take as the laws regarding the passing of stopped emergency vehicles differs from province to province.

In order to educate motorists, it is important to remember that only 5 provinces have regulations governing this activity. This fact sheet will provide information on this subject.

In Prince Edward Island , no person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than half the posted speed limit when approaching or passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped on the highway with its emergency lights in operation. Where:
(a) the driver of a motor vehicle approaches an emergency vehicle
that is stopped on a highway with its emergency lights in operation;
(b) there are two or more lanes of traffic on the same side of the
highway on which the emergency vehicle is stopped; and
(c) the driver of the motor vehicle is traveling in the same lane that
the emergency vehicle is stopped in or in a lane that is adjacent to
the emergency vehicle, the driver shall, in addition to reducing speed as required by subsection
(1), move into another lane if the movement can be made in safety.
The fines for these offences range from $100-$200.

In Ontario , the law requires drivers slow down, and proceed with caution when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with its emergency lights flashing. If the highway has two or more lanes, the driver must move over into another lane if it can be done safely. Upon conviction for a first offence, the penalty is a fine of $400-$2,000 plus three demerit points. For subsequent offences, penalties range from a fine of $1,000-$4,000, and/or imprisonment for a maximum of six months. The court that convicts a person of an offence may also suspend his or her driver's license for up to two years.

In Manitoba , section 109.1 of Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) addresses driver requirements when approaching and passing stopped emergency vehicles with their emergency lights activated. Drivers are required to slow down, be cautious, and pass only when safe to do so. It also requires drivers to move out of the lane that the emergency vehicle is stopped in and, in the case multilane highways, move into a lane that is not adjacent to the stopped vehicle. These offences carry a fine of $247.00 and two demerit points on the driver’s record. Judges also have the option of imposing a fine up to a maximum of $2000 as well as a driver's license suspension of up to one year on conviction.

In Saskatchewan, drivers are required to slow to 60 km/h when passing stationary emergency vehicles or tow trucks. This applies to vehicles travelling in both lanes in the same direction as the emergency vehicle on a four lane roadway or both lanes on a two lane roadway. It does not apply to the vehicles travelling in the opposite direction on a divided highway. If convicted, a driver faces fines starting at $140, with a per kilometre rate assessed for each kilometre in excess of the speed limit. Three demerit points are also assigned to the driver.

In Alberta , if a vehicle is passing a stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck on the same side of the highway that has its flashing lights activated, and the passing vehicle is in the adjacent lane, then that vehicle must slow down to 60 km/h or the posted speed limit, whichever is less. The fine schedule for violation of this requirement is a 'doubling' of the amount normally assigned for driving over the posted speed limit. The schedule has a set fine by each km/h over the posted limit up to 50 km/h over, after which it is an automatic court appearance.

Although Newfoundland does not have a specific law respecting encountering roadside stationary emergency vehicles with emergency lights activated, they do have an offense for failing to yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles. This offence carries a fine of $300-$900 and a loss of two demerit points.