Slow Down, Move Over, Not!

On June 1, 2009 the Slow Down, Move Over law came into effect in British Columbia. Just in case you've never heard of it, when you approach an official vehicle stopped on the side of the road that is displaying flashing red, blue, white or yellow lights you must slow down and, if possible, move over before you pass it.

An official vehicle is any vehicle authorised under division 4.28 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations to use flashing lights of those colours. This includes police, fire, paramedic, towing and public utility vehicles.

Think of it as the 70/40 rule: If the speed limit is 80 km/h or more, you slow down to 70 km/h. If it is lower than 80 km/h you slow down to 40 km/h.

After you have passed by, you may resume speed.

The whole idea of this law is to give the people who work on the side of the road a relatively safe place to conduct their business.

How difficult can it be? You see the flashing lights and check around you to see if it is safe to move over. If it is, you change lanes and begin to slow down. If it isn't, you simply begin to slow down. In either case, you need to be at the correct speed before you pass by.

Don't confuse the rule as permission to pass by at either 70 or 40 km/h as the case may be. Circumstances may require that you slow down more than this or even stop if necessary.

I know that the message has not gotten through to some drivers. The last time I passed a tow truck picking up a broken down vehicle on the right shoulder of a divided highway I moved over to the left and slowed down. The driver behind me caught up, changed to the curb lane and blew right on through.

A genuinely stupid move like this could qualify as driving without reasonable consideration for others using the highway instead of a slow down, move over violation.

The fault is not always the passing driver's however. I have come across situations where there was insufficient time to see the stopped official vehicle and safely carry out the slow down, move over requirement.

Section 138 of the Motor Vehicle Act requires that warning signs be put in place when work is being carried out on a highway. In fact, signs with a pink background are meant to advise of a temporary emergency situation.

Further, section 139 requires that temporary signs be set up limiting speed and how vehicles are to proceed in these situations as well. It is not uncommon to find work being done at the roadside with no warning signs in place.

I have also found an official vehicle parked well off the highway with yellow lights flashing while the worker's task was being conducted even further off the highway. There should be guidelines for when it is appropriate to use flashing lights and when it is not.

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.

Comments

The comment about lowering

The comment about lowering the limit and using flashing lights well off the road is noteworthy. Overuse/abuse of a regulatory tool causes people to ignore the rules. I have seen construction speed zones where there is no work actually occurring on the roadway.

On the other hand, I think the “move over” rule should apply at any time a vehicle is stopped on the roadway or shoulder and people are present.  Somebody changing a tire should be regarded in the same way as a first responder.  We shouldn’t need a new law, just courtesy.

 

Slow down!

I am always disappointed at the large number of speed mongers out there.  I’ve exercised this maneuver on a few occasions (Hwy 1) only to have those following me to ride my bumper until I move over to the travelling lane and then they fly by so fast like I was holding them up or something (sarcasm here).  Hard to tame, teach and regulate these aggressive drivers as they have no concept of the danger just the task of getting to their destination as fast as possible - screw the rules!  And ‘courtesy’ is not in their equation.  How do you fix stupid?

Perspective

A joke if you please:

A guy (from the right-sided driving country) went to London for the first time. A wife is calling to check on him:
- "Sweeatheart, please be carefull over there - I've just heard on the radio that some crazy guy is driving in the on-coming lanes wreking havoc on their streets."
- "Honey, you won't not belive it, but they are all driving in the friggin on-coming lane!!!"

All kidding aside ...

... something many drivers here don't seem to consciously realize, is that a fundamental rule that's applied here in Canada and the US, is that the highway line between opposing traffic will always be yellow. I'm not sure if they apply that intelligent design anywhere else - and it wasn't always so on our continent; this only came about in the 50s/60s, probably around the time that we started using laned traffic.

Go back 100 years, and we here in BC (also Washington and Oregon I think) were all driving on the left. Not even sure if there would have been a centre line; in places like North Vancouver or San Francisco for instance, where you see stepped streets, it's because they had horse-drawn trams on tracks running down the middle; the flat intersections were where the horses got a rest, and the pedestrians walked to and from the middle of the intersection to use them.

Heck, here's another piece of trivia that knowledgeable traffic engineers will be aware of - if there's a yellow centre line, then the cross-streets should be controlled by a traffic device; in other words, if you're not facing a Stop, Yield, or Red Light, then the drivers on the intersecting streets will be.

Now, would you care to guess why the double solid yellow line down Lonsdale south of Kings is essentially a waste of paint and space?

Moving over is optional

One thing that should be noted about this law - slowing down to the prescribed numbers is mandatory in every situation.
However, moving over (where an extra lane exists) is subject to doing it safely. The section of the MVA on switching lanes provides more clarity on "safely":
In no way affecting a travel of another vehicle.

Funny this topic came up, I have a dispute scheduled in just a few days for a ticket that my friend received (wasn't me I swear), and I'll be helping them with their dispute:

It was a dark rainy spring evening on Hwy 1 off Cypress Bowl Rd.
My friend was driving WB in the right lane around 80km/h on a 90km/h section. They came around the bend and suddenly saw a WV Cruiser with emergency lights blasting finishing a ticket for someone they had pulled over. My friend slowed down to 70km/h, but did not move over. Officer gave chase and quickly caught up with my friend and issued a ticket for Fail to move over for emergency vehicle, MVAR 47.02, $173.

The dispute paperwork shows MVAR 47.02(1) - which is for speeding. My friend assures me that speeding was not the problem. Officer specifically was upset over my friend not moving over (or so I'm told).
This could be a fatal flaw to the ticket - as the moving over part is 47.02(3) - and the defenses for the two would be categorically different - so we'll see.

My friend did not move over because they could not be assured that their movement would in no way affect a travel of another vehicle so it couldn't have been done safely, because:

1) It was dark, after sunset - natural fact
2) It was rainy, the automatic weather tracking station located with-in 100 meters of the pull-over location has recorded 25mm of rain that day, historical weather forecast for that day shows that it was raining at the hour of the pull-over, as well as 2 hours prior to - natural fact
3) It was a surprise - my friend describes it as around the bend - and that they did not see the emergency lights until rounding the corner.
4) My friend was temporarily disabled/blinded by the bright LED emergency lights - and I've done some research on this - it seems common that the new emergency LED light bars installed on Police cruisers in North America come with daylight/night-time modes, but the departments often forego wiring the toggle-switch to the dash - so LEO's typically don't switch operation modes - resulting in the ultra-bright lights at night.
5) My friend travels this part of the Hwy often, and it is a commonly known "high speed" section - where the infamous Canada Post van was pulled over and impounded for 40km/h over the limit. Switching blindly is not a good idea there.

So on a dark rainy night, after rounding a corner, my friend was blinded by the unduly bright red and blue strobes, naturally focusing on the strobes and slowing down. We all know what happens when you look directly at bright lights at night - the lights are burned in to your retina for a few moments. Thats why it's never recommended to look directly in to the on-coming lights at night - use your side vision. However because this was a surprise and my friend has looked at the lights, when they would have went to look in their driver mirror - to assess the left lane - all they would have seen are the burned-in strobes on a dark back-ground.
Naturally it would not be safe for them to switch lanes - it would be tantamount to a leap of blind faith - and if there was another vehicle - much worse could have happened.

That is why the law has two requirements: 1 - Slow down (always), 2 move over (when safe).

Wish me luck :)

One correction

I just want to correct one thing.  Your acticle says:
 
"Don't confuse the rule as permission to pass by at either 70 or 40 km/h as the case may be. Circumstances may require that you slow down more than this or even stop if necessary."
 
This is actually not true, the driver must drive a motor vehicle at a rate of 70 or 40 km/h regardless of conditions.  In fact, as the regulations are written, even if the driver is in a 30 km/h hour zone, he or she must drive 40 km/h, if there is an official vehicle parked on the side of the road.   
 
This leads to a real dilemma in a school zone with a police officer on the side of road: drive 40km/h and risk hitting the kids or drive less than 40km/h and risk getting a $173 fine and 3 points.
 
Obviously, someone who wrote section 47.02(1) of the Motor Vehicle Regulations should not be practicing law:   
 
47.02(1) Subject to subsection (2), if an official vehicle with illuminated flashing red or blue lamps or lights, or both, or flashing amber lamps or lights is stopped on or on the side of a highway, a person driving a motor vehicle on the highway in either direction must drive the motor vehicle at the following rate of speed when approaching or passing the official vehicle:
(a) 70 km/h if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to 80 km/h or more;
(b) 40 km/h if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 80 km/h.

My Copy of the Regs is Different

47.02   (1) Subject to subsection (2), a person driving a motor vehicle on a highway in either direction must drive the motor vehicle at no more than the following rate of speed when approaching or passing an official vehicle:

(a) 70 km/h, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to 80 km/h or more;

(b) 40 km/h, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 80 km/h;

(c) the rate of speed indicated on the signs, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 40 km/h.

Slow Down Move Over

Regarding right hand drive and left hand drive. B.C. made the switch in the 1920's. New Foundland switched prior to joining confederation in 1949. Although we will never see the world change an interesting fact is that countries with right hand drive have lower accident rates. Have you ever noticed the number of boats, helicopters, aircraft, equipment in general which are configured for right hand drive? Why? Could it be it is the more natural position?

I also agree with carguy and personally I always give a stopped vehicle extra room even if it means crossing partially over a double yellow line if no one is approaching. It is just courtesy. Part I question is the slowing down. Free moving traffic is the safest. Once traffic starts to bunch up you are looking for an accident to happen.

I would be interested if there is any statistics on the number of accidents that occur in these zones. Reason I ask is that immediately after the law was introduced I was east bound on the TC in the Port Kells area when a tow truck was parked behind a car off the travelled portion of the highway and everyone was trying to get out of the right lane and slow down. Traffic was flowing freely up to this point but immediately after I past this incident traffic was breaking and switching lanes. Congestion was building and I thought it is not going to be long before someone has an accident. And that is exactly what happened. So is this law reducing the risk or is it making it more dangerous for the other users of the road? In this case if it wasn't for this law I don't believe the accident would have happened. Slowing and switching lanes caused the problem.

I know people that work as tow truck drives, flagpersons and first responders. You have to question their sanity. They complain that people are not slowing down then in the very next sentence they complain about people that slow down too much??

I also feel that the new light bars are too bright. With the technology of today if there is two settings this should be eliminated and the dimming should be automatic based on the ambient lighting. Relying on the operator to make the change is illogical. If it is an accident the lights may have been activated in daylight yet before they are finished it is dark. Another reason police cars are permitted to deactivate their DRL's while doing surveillance yet how often do you see police vehicles on the highway with them not operational? Someone turned them of then forgot to turn them back on. Another problem I often see and it is most bothersome on two lane roads is the alternating between high and low beam of the headlights on police cars. Blinding oncoming traffic just does not make sense.

 

I see what happened

I see what happened, prior to 2015, the regulations used to say that a driver must drive exactly 40km/h or 70km/h.
 
http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/loo92/loo92/26_58_15#section47.02
47.02(1) Subject to subsection (2), if an official vehicle with illuminated flashing red or blue lamps or lights, or both, or flashing amber lamps or lights is stopped on or on the side of a highway, a person driving a motor vehicle on the highway in either direction must drive the motor vehicle at the following rate of speed when approaching or passing the official vehicle:
(a) 70 km/h if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to 80 km/h or more;
(b) 40 km/h if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 80 km/h.
 
 
January 1st 2015, the regulation was amended by someone competent and now says:
http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/26_58_15
47.02   (1) Subject to subsection (2), a person driving a motor vehicle on a highway in either direction 
must drive the motor vehicle at no more than the following rate of speed when approaching or passing an official vehicle:
(a) 70 km/h, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to 80 km/h or more;
(b) 40 km/h, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 80 km/h;
(c) the rate of speed indicated on the signs, if signs on the highway limit the rate of speed to less than 40 km/h.
 

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