BC's Slow Down Move Over Law

Slow Down, Move Over SignB,C.'s Slow Down, Move Over law came into effect over two decades ago. When an official vehicle is stopped at the side of the highway and displaying flashing lights, red, blue or yellow, approaching traffic is required to slow down and move over. The law is meant to provide a safe workspace for the emergency and roadside workers.

What is an Official Vehicle?

47.01 (1) In this Division, "official vehicle" means a vehicle that

(a) is authorized under section 4.28 to display flashes of red, blue, white or amber light

(2) Despite subsection (1), a school bus is not an official vehicle for the purposes of this Division.

Examples of Official Vehicles include emergency vehicles such as police, ambulance and fire apparatus. Maintenance and utility vehicles are included too; towing, road maintenance, public utility and roadside repair vehicles qualify under this law.

Approaching a Stopped Official Vehicle

The slow down half of the law requires overtaking motorists to slow to 70 km/h on highways posted at 80 km/h and higher and to 40 km/h in all other speed zones. Perhaps another way to think of this law would be the 70 / 40 rule with 80 km/h being the dividing line.

The move over portion requires that if it is safe to do so, you will move into the unoccupied adjacent lanes. This could mean the adjacent lane in the same direction if there are multiple lanes, or the oncoming lane if there are not.

Remember, if you have to use the oncoming lane, you have no lawful excuse to encroach on it when there is oncoming traffic.

What if I Can't Move Over?

You are required to move out of the lane adjacent to the official vehicle only if it is safe to do so.

If moving over would create a danger to other road users you are only required to slow down.

Penalties for Failing to Slow Down or Move Over

A violation ticket for either of these offences costs a driver $173 and 3 penalty points.

Unintended Consequences

I have come across road maintenance vehicles parked near the roadside, lights flashing, with the operator working well off the road where there is no danger from passing traffic. This may be from force of habit rather than conscious thought, but flashing lights should not be turned on when there is no danger present.

Police vehicle operators may also choose to move their stop to a safer location once they make their initial approach to the violator. If you are being pulled over by police using only their flashing lights but without the siren, you should choose to stop in a safe spot instead of immediately pulling over.

Regardless, it is still up to approaching drivers to slow down and move over.

It is Your Responsibility to be Safe

If you read case law, the justice will often mention that is your responsibility as a driver to be able to respond safely to situations that may reasonably be encountered on the highway. A slow down, move over situation is one of them.

I remember when this was first announced and thinking at the time it would only create another hazard on the road.

Leaving Vancouver in the midst of the morning rush hour just after it came into law I past a vehicle that was pulled over by the police and people were slowing and trying to move over and sure enough just a few minutes after  passing there was an accident caused by the backup of the original police stop.

I understand how those driving emergency vehicles want to do their job as safely as possible. Unfortunately, I always remember the story we heard as kids of  "The boy who cried wolf". 

In the video at the end of the article we see a police vehicle sticking close to halfway further into traffic. Is this not creating a greater hazard? And often on two lane highways we see the same procedure but in this case the headlights are flashing between low and high beam again creating a increase hazard for traffic approaching especially at night. Then with the LED lightbars most emergency vehicles have it should be mandatory they be equipped with automatic dimmers based on the ambient light. This can not be left to the operator as most seem oblivious to the hazard they are creating by trying to eliminate another.

Think of the last time you went out on the highway of how many vehicles you past with amber flashing lights? Currently I live in an area where highway upgrading is being done. All the contractor vehicles have amber flashing lights and except for one or two these lights are flashing constantly even when they are driving back and forth to work. I would say that 98% of the drivers pay no attention. Remember the boy that cried wolf?

All safety measures must be practiced with common sense. Unfortunately, in my opinion very few of the operators of these vehicles use common sense. Basically, they are demanding the upmost courtesy from the general public when they are not capable of using discretion in the use of a safety device they personally control.

And if you have every watched an episode of "Highway thru hell" or "Heavy Rescue - 401" they are constantly complaining about vehicles not slowing down and moving over. Then when they do move over and slow down their complaining about "lookey loos". Make up your minds. You can't have it both ways.

I can't recall the number of times I have come across situation where you have emergency vehicles parked in the middle or even straddling two lanes, high beams on, lights flashing wandering around like chickens, yet not one safety cone out to warn traffic. As a person that spent most of my life in a supervisory or owner position I would never put a crew to work without teaching them one of the most important aspect of any critical situation. Secure your scene! You cannot render assistance when you become part of the incident. Yet this is what I see on a regular basis.

Safety is a two-way street. Are you doing your part or are you part of the problem?

I've been a licenced driver since the mid 1950's holding a Class 1, and true traffic has greatly increased but I find the consideration of those in the industry have forgotten or I don't believe have ever been taught some fundamental safety rules. Clean up your own act and maybe the public will give you more consideration.