Bill 191, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to ensure the safety of emergency vehicles stopped on a highway and people who are outside a stopped emergency vehicle.

Update:

Slow Down or Change Lanes for Emergeny Vehicles stopped on side of road with emergeny lights flashing or you may find yourself subjected to a huge fine and a loss of demerit points and possible incarceration.

I received an email in which it was suggested that the law that I am about to describe in detail, was not given a sufficient period of promotion by the Provincial Conservative Government when it came into being on April 3, 2003.

Officers on Highway 427, at Burnhamthorpe in the early afternoon, pulled over approximately 50 cars and started issuing tickets for $490.00.  The officer would pull the car over, approach from the passenger side and ask the driver if they had any idea as to why they were being pulled over. When the driver answered “no” the officer would then inform them that Ontario law now states that when approaching any emergency vehicle on the roadside with lights flashing, you must enter the left lane.  After that, the officer would issue a ticket for $490.00.  Upon conviction, or paying off the ticket (which is an admission of guilt) the driver would accumulate three (3) demerit points on his or her driver’s record with the Ministry of Transportation and a potential increase in their insurance premiums.

The rationale behind this legislation, was to save lives of those EMS workers’ who worked on the highways and roads.

Bill 191 – An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to ensure the safety of emergency vehicles stopped on a highway and people who are outside a stopped emergency vehicle (2002).

This is the journey this Bill took, until it was proclaimed to be law on April 3, 2003:
1st Reading October 16, 2002
2nd Reading December 5, 2002
3rd Reading December 5, 2002
Royal Assent December 9, 2002

Bill 191, an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, came into effect April 3, 2003 to protect police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel whose vehicles are stopped on the shoulder of the roadway with red lights flashing.

Motorists must slow down and, where safe and possible, move to a lane not adjacent to the one in which the emergency vehicle is situated. First offenders will face a fine between $400 and $2,000. For second and subsequent convictions, the fine can range from $1,000 to $4,000, six months in jail or both.

Highway Traffic Act regulation 340/94, Drivers’ Licences, was amended by O.Reg. 115/03 which allows firefighters to drive ambulances during an emergency situation. This change was made to assist first responders during the recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.

This amendment to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act can be found in Section 159 (2) & (3). The language has changed alittle, given some recent amendments to the Highway Traffic Act. In the original languge, the legislation only referred to “red light”, the language has since been modified to include “blue light” (this is as a result of Bill 203Safer Roads for a Safer Ontario Act -Assented to June 4, 2007).

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act, Section 159, subsections (2) & (3) state the following:

Slow down on approaching stopped emergency vehicle

(2) Upon approaching an emergency vehicle with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light or red and blue light that is stopped on a highway, the driver of a vehicle travelling on the same side of the highway shall slow down and proceed with caution, having due regard for traffic on and the conditions of the highway and the weather, to ensure that the driver does not collide with the emergency vehicle or endanger any person outside of the emergency vehicle.

Same

(3) Upon approaching an emergency vehicle with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light or red and blue light that is stopped on a highway with two or more lanes of traffic on the same side of the highway as the side on which the emergency vehicle is stopped, the driver of a vehicle travelling in the same lane that the emergency vehicle is stopped in or in a lane that is adjacent to the emergency vehicle, in addition to slowing down and proceeding with caution as required by subsection (2), shall move into another lane if the movement can be made in safety.

Offence

(6) Every person who contravenes subsection (1), (2), (3) or (4) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000; and

(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $4,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

Time limit for subsequent offence

(7) An offence referred to in subsection (6) committed more than five years after a previous conviction for an offence referred to in that subsection is not a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (6) (b).

Driver’s licence suspension

(8) If a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (6), the court may make an order suspending the person’s driver’s licence for a period of not more than two years.

Appeal of suspension

(9) An appeal may be taken from an order under subsection (8) or a decision to not make the order in the same manner as from a conviction or an acquittal under subsection (6).

Stay of order on appeal

(10) Where an appeal is taken under subsection (9) from an order under subsection (8), the court being appealed to may direct that the order shall be stayed pending the final disposition of the appeal or until otherwise ordered by that court.

Definition

(11) In this section,

“emergency vehicle” means,

(a) an ambulance, fire department vehicle, police department vehicle or public utility emergency vehicle,

(b) a ministry vehicle operated by an officer appointed for carrying out the provisions of this Act or the Public Vehicles Act, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment,

(c) a vehicle while operated by a conservation officer, fishery officer, provincial park officer or mine rescue training officer, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment,

(d) a vehicle while operated by a provincial officer designated under the Environmental Protection Act, the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, the Ontario Water Resources Act, or the Pesticides Act, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment, or

(e) a vehicle as prescribed for the purposes of paragraph 5 of subsection 62 (15.1).

There is similar language elsewhere in Canada. In Saskatchewan’s Highway Traffic Act,

Passing Emergency Vehicles

37.1(1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than 60 kilometres per hour when
passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped on the highway with its emergency lights in operation.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply where a vehicle being driven on a highway that is divided into two
roadways by a median and the vehicle is travelling on the opposite roadway from the emergency
vehicle.

In the United States, the following states have similar language in their motor vehicle legislation:

Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Some debate on this Bill in Queen’s Park:

  • Wednesday, October 16, 2002  – See First Reading
  • Thursday, October 24, 2002     – See Hansard No.48B pdf.
  • Wednesday, October 30, 2002 – See Hansard Issue LO51B.
  • Wednesday, November 20, 2002 – See Orders of the Day
  • Monday, November 25, 2002  –  See Members’ Statements
  • Wednesday, December 4, 2002- Moved “Second Reading” vote.
  • Thursday, December 5, 2002   – See Deferred Vote for second reading
  • Thursday, December 5, 2002   – See  Third Reading of Bill 191
  • Monday, December 9, 2002     – See Bill 191 receives Royal Assent
  • Thursday, April 3, 2003 – Amendment to Highway Traffic Act is proclaimed.
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    7 comments

    1. Do emergency vehicles responding to an emergency call, have to have both lights and sirens on or can they respond with just the flashing red/blue lights? I was under the impression they needed both to proceed thru a red light but only their flashing lights at all other times?

    2. Hi Kid: Thanks for pointing this out. I wrote “where safe and possible” (to hopefully prevent any unnecessary carnage on our highways and roads) – I wasn’t quoting the Act (see http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm#s159p1s3 ), but thanks for picking up on this and letting me know.

      Knowledge is always your best defence in avoiding tickets or challenging them once your ticketed. Remember to always http://fightyourtickets.ca

    3. Hello. Great site.
      You wrote this in regard to this article.
      “Motorists must slow down and, where safe and possible, move to a lane not adjacent to the one in which the emergency vehicle is situated. ”
      This is not correct.
      Section 159(3) addresses vehicles in the same lane as an emergency vehilce and vehicles in an adjacent lane as the emergency vehicle on a roadway with 2 or more lanes going in the same direction.
      In a case with 3 or more lanes, if you are in the same lane as the emergency vehicle you are only required to move into another lane, which would now place you in the adjacent lane to the emergency vehicle.
      There is no requirement to move to a lane “not” adjacent to the one which the emergency vehicle is situated.
      159(3)
      Upon approaching an emergency vehicle … stopped on a highway with two or more lanes …, the driver of a vehicle travelling in … the same lane … that the emergency vehicle is stopped in … or … in a lane that is adjacent to the emergency vehicle, … shall move into another lane …

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