AURORA, Ontario, July 25, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers, other police service personnel, ambulance workers and firefighters will be out in force this holiday weekend keeping Ontario's roads safe and rescuing the unfortunate. But their own lives will be endangered by drivers who do not obey "Move Over" legislation.
In Ontario, Section 159 (2)(3) of the Highway Traffic Act requires drivers to slow down and proceed with caution when passing an emergency vehicle parked on the side of the highway with its lights activated. If the highway has more than one lane, the law requires the driver to move over and leave one lane between their vehicle and the parked emergency vehicle if it can be done safely. Failure to do so can result in fines from $400 to $2,000 and three demerit points for a first offence.
"Officers report that often it is older drivers who are ignorant of this law since it was enacted in 2003 after many current motorists already had their licence. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse to endanger the life of a police officer or an emergency worker," says OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis.
In partnership with the media, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and other police services, the OPP will conduct an educational campaign to make motorists aware of their obligations from July 25 to 31. From August 1 to 7, OPP officers will conduct a focussed enforcement campaign aimed squarely at drivers who continue to violate this law.
"This is an important education and targeted enforcement campaign. Since 1989, five OPP officers have been killed doing their job on the sides of Ontario roadways and many more have been injured. Our colleagues at other police services, ambulance and fire services have also lost friends and co-workers to these preventable roadside collisions," says Larry Beechey, OPP Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Safety and Operational Support.
The OPP has produced posters and information cards on the Move Over law for the education campaign. A high quality, 30-second video about the law has been recorded for use in theatres and for broadcast and posting by interested television stations and web sites. Scripts for Public Service Announcements on the Move Over laws for radio stations that want to contribute to educating of the driving public are also available. All materials are bilingual.
OPP officers will be out in force this week and throughout the holiday weekend targeting the "big four" causal factors for collisions on Ontario roads: aggressive driving, lack of driver and passenger restraints, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and distracted driving.
When these irresponsible driving practices inevitably cause collisions, ambulance and fire personnel will be working alongside police officers to save lives. All drivers should slow down, proceed with caution and move over if it can be done safely.
Constable John Gregovski, killed on January 4, 1989, when he went to assist a disabled van on the Queen Elizabeth Way at the base of the Garden City Skyway Bridge. A wrecker had been called and the two men were seated in the cruiser, which had all its roof lights activated. A westbound tractor trailer came up in the right-hand land of the three-lane roadway, struck the cruiser, pushed it into the disabled van and sent both vehicles 200 feet up the Skyway Bridge. Both the officer and the 36-year-old passenger sitting in the police car died instantly.
Senior Constable Michael Gula, killed on April 2, 1996, while patrolling the Queen Elizabeth Way northbound in Niagara Falls. Constable Gula observed another highway cruiser stopped with a female motorist. He stopped and activated his roof lights to complement those of the other cruiser. Suddenly, as Gula stood on the shoulder of the road talking to the other officer through the car window, a sport utility truck struck him from behind. The officer was thrown against the cruiser and then projected into the passing lane of busy the highway.
Constable Charles Mercier was assigned to safeguarding and directing traffic at a construction site on the Queen Elizabeth Way on September 30, 1999. His location was the right shoulder of the eastbound lane near the base of the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines. Just after 8 a.m. Constable Mercier was in his marked cruiser with a raised rooftop-activated flashing arrow sign when a cube van crossed from the passing lane and ploughed into the rear of the highly visible police car. The car was pushed 132 feet into a ditch between the highway and Dunkirk Road. The OPP vehicle was wedged under the truck, killing the officer.
Senior Constable James McFadden was working the day shift on traffic patrol east of Chatham on December 31, 1999. He stopped a Michigan driver for speeding and was parked behind the subject's vehicle with his emergency lights activated while he wrote the ticket. Another driver came up behind the two stopped vehicles and rammed the cruiser from behind, killing Constable McFadden.
Sergeant Marg Eve died, June 9, 2000. On June 7, Sergeant Eve and Constables Brad Sakalo and Patti Pask were stopped on the side of Highway 401 in the Chatham area checking a vehicle that was suspected to have been involved in an armed robbery in Windsor. While talking with the occupants of the car, a driver of a transport truck drove directly into the three police cruisers, the suspect vehicle and all five people standing on the shoulder of the highway, killing Sergeant Eve and seriously wounding the others.