Is It Legal For The Police to Drive Like That?

Red Traffic SignalThe C.F.S.E.U. was in the news this week, probably not in the way they would have liked. You may have seen the dash cam videos from Richmond showing a number of vehicles apparently brazenly running red lights. The story hit the news amid amazed comments about how bad drivers were becoming in the Lower Mainland. In later days it was revealed that these were unmarked police vehicles doing surveillance on gang targets.

Is it legal for the police to drive like this? The answer is a qualified yes.

When I started policing in 1981, section 122 of the Motor Vehicle Act gave the operators of emergency vehicles the authority to disregard the rules in Part 3. This part contains the rules on speed, stopping and lane use to mention a few examples.

Fire apparatus and ambulances were required to use flashing lights and a siren in all circumstances and the police could use lights and siren, lights alone or no emergency equipment at all depending on the circumstances. In all cases, due regard for the situation must be continuously considered.

In early 1998, section 122 was amended to require adherence to the Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation (EVDR) when disregarding Part 3 requirements. With that change came mandatory training for emergency vehicle drivers before they could exercise these privileges.

The regulation defined in much more detail what could and could not be done along with justification needed to do so. It particularly restricted pursuit by police and loosened response requirements for fire and ambulance.

In all cases, the risk to the public using the highway must be outweighed by the risk of not making an emergency response.

Returning to the story from Richmond, this was not a pursuit as defined in the EVDR. It was a situation covered by section 4(2)(b) instead and is permitted as long as the public was not subject to unwarranted risk.

In the limited view provided by the dash cam videos that were shared, I did not see more than what would cause some surprise and consternation for surrounding traffic. There were no instances shown were civilian drivers had to slam on the brakes or make abrupt moves to avoid a collision.

I am not going to say that there was not a higher than normal risk present for everyone involved. There was, but it appeared to me that care was exercised to minimize it.

In order not to jeopardize the investigation, it may be some time before the reasons for this incident can be shared with the public.

Also, considering the wide publicity given to this incident, I don't doubt that police are actively trying to find a better way to follow their criminal targets. I can't think of a better way to confirm to the bad guys that they are under investigation than incidents like this.

Before I came to live in Canada, I worked for Customs in the UK and we were also allowed by law to go through red lights if safe, etc. when following suspects. It was not something we took lightly as you were effectively putting your life on the line.

The vehicles we were driving were the best blend in vehicles we had available, and we certainly didn't want the public finding out what we had. We also used to notify the police that we had X vehicles and their licence plates so that they could deal with any calls that might come in.

Fast forward 25 years and everyone has a phone camera, or a dash cam, and the job of following someone has become more difficult. Not sure how they will solve this, but I wish them luck. I'm sure they did their best, and yes you still go through a red light, so you do attract attention.

... I really wish there was data out there to show the number of collisions involving police vehicles, along with the cost incurred.

For kilometers driven, I wonder how they would compare to the rest of us?

Doing two weeks at one time and just had to mention that the video from last week probably was undercover police vehicles also.

As for this video I don't know what they had under surveillance but I think if one was to check you would find a donut shop not too far from this intersection. To me it looked like nothing was in front so it was not like they were following a vehicle. On top of that if I saw an idiot behind me blowing a stop sign to stay behind I would definitely be wondering what they are up to. So to put it simply there is no explanation that would excuse this action. Obeying the rules of the road is far more important than the few minutes this saved these officers.

You should watch this video:

I know this is from the states unfortunately the holier than thou attitude has no borders.

Another dangerous habit I have noticed with police cars is deactivating their DRL. Years back in discussion with the Officer in Charge of E Division I was advised that the only time they are could deactivate the DRL is when they are stopped doing surveillance. Why they couldn't put on the hand brake like the rest of us I don't know. I found the info in the operators manual on how to turn the DRL's off. Pays to read if you can. But as many continue to this day to deactivate I feel this feature should be removed. Public safety is a bigger concern.

Until the attitude of the majority of polcie officers change things are not going to get better. Currently all first responders have an attitude that they are better than the average person which is far from the truth. I wonder how many were bullied in school and now they hide behind a badge and bully others?

The author of this letter mentions that the police deactivate the DRL (daytime running lights) so that they can perform surveillance. I do not believe this to be correct.

The fact that the daytime running lights do not work on most police vehicles, except the new Ford SUV Police models, is not to be more discrete. In fact, if you are watching approaching traffic, any newer model vehicles that have no DRL are either unmarked RCMP or American vehicles. This makes it easier to spot an unmarked vehicle.

The reason the DRL are off is due to the device that "wig-wags" the headlights. Likely because they are made for the majority of police dept, which would be in the USA where DRL are not a thing. Certainly the technology exists where a police vehicle can be equipped with headlight wig-wags and still run DRL, and certainly the technology exists where one can turn off their DRL when performing surveillance. I seem to remember a front and rear cut off in some police vehicles, for just this purpose. That way even when they hit their brakes, no lights would turn on, providing them with stealth mode.

"Currently all first responders have an attitude that they are better than the average person which is far from the truth". 

I don't know where you get your information or how you came to this conclusion but I think you are very wrong and lack the ability to be unbiased and lack any real observational skills. 

Watch any responder closely, and you will see emergency response vehicles, in emergency response mode, coming to a complete stop at stop signs and red traffic signals even with red lights and sirens activated. You will see them responding with equipment activated, but still staying below the speed limit and following all of the rules, even though they don't have to.

The only time I see any emergency responder speeding without emergency equipment activated is the occasional police officer. Not knowing what the purpose of their trip is, I do not jump to conclusions, something this letter writer may want to try. Sometimes a speeding police car is headed to a call that doesn't meet the requirements of a code three response, but still needs to be attend to quickly, say a pedestrian hit call, an overdose or EMS needing police response as they are dealing with an agitated patient, but are currently safe but the situation is actively evolving. Or maybe they are headed somewhere requiring an emergency response but they do not want the "bad guy" to flee the scene or to know that the police are on their way. 

From my observations, you will never see a code 3 (lights and sirens) response from FIRE or EMS that involves them proceeding past a red light or stop sign without coming to a complete stop and making sure it is safe to proceed. They rarely exceed the speed limit, they almost always deactivate their equipment and slow to the speed limit when entering a school or work zone, then turning it back on and increasing speed after they are through the zone and it is safe to do so.

The best thing you can do is film what you see, and post it to the internet. I bet you will realize 9 times out of 10, you are wrong about what you said.

The article is irrelevant to this discussion.

To be frank, it looks like there was minimal to no risk to the public. This anchor should consider how he described the events and exaggerated the danger for his own personal interests.

"The video shows 4 drivers blowing through several red lights in the span of just ten minutes".

"Blowing" a red light, in my mind, means driving through an intersection without any consideration for other vehicles. That is not how I would describe the video.

The first red light runner knew that because the signal was allowing only traffic headed in one direction, he could easily proceed since there was no cross traffic to worry about, the only traffic he had to worry about was those turning left, or going straight, on green. They saw the back of that line, and slipped across - no one put at risk.

The second and third vehicles see no traffic approaching from the left, stage halfway across the intersection, finding safety in what would be a left hand turn lane, and then when they see an opening in traffic coming from the right, they crossing quickly.

They did not force anyone to make evasive maneuvers, they did not blast through a light with no disregard for safety. It seems like they trained for this an executed it perfectly. 

Thanks for doing what you can to keep us safe, officers. Keep it up.