Over the next six months, TSU will evaluate, educate, and conduct enforcement of motorists who speed past tow trucks while they are providing roadside assistance along high-speed roadways within Edmonton, namely Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216), Queen Elizabeth (QE) II Highway, Whitemud Drive, and Yellowhead Trail. When AMA dispatches a towing unit to one of these roadways, AMA’s call centre will contact the EPS’ on-duty Traffic Enforcement Section Sergeant. If available, an enforcement unit(s) will respond to the call.
Traffic volume and speed, among other factors, are significant concerns for tow truck operators when working on high-speed roads. Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act (TSA) requires motorists passing stopped emergency vehicles and tow trucks that have their service lights activated to slow to 60 km/hr. — or to the posted speed limit, whichever is lower. Or if possible, provide one lane of space on multi-lane roadways. Current fines are doubled for drivers failing to do so.
“Tow truck operators provide critical roadside services to motorists throughout the province, and it’s important drivers recognize that their actions on the road can put these essential workers at risk,” says Sergeant Kerry Bates of the EPS’ Traffic Safety Unit.
“Increasing the awareness of emergency vehicle passing laws is crucial to eliminating serious injuries due to unsafe behaviours on the road. The EPS has been fortunate to collaborate with AMA on several road safety initiatives in the past. Their continued support of our efforts to improve public safety on Edmonton’s roads is truly valued.”
In Alberta, AMA responds to more than 37,500 high-risk calls (one every 14 minutes), each year. In 2021, AMA responded to 4,023 high-risk calls in the City of Edmonton.
“Drivers failing to adhere to emergency vehicle passing laws is a serious problem that extends beyond our city limits,” says TSU Constable Keith Pitzel. “The roadways are a shared space, and everyone that uses them has a responsibility to follow the rules of the road. Through this partnership, our goal is to increase awareness around the issue and educate motorists in Edmonton with hopes it will enhance safety for tow truck operators throughout the province.”
Since December 2019, there have been 14 serious incidents (collision, injury, or death) involving tow trucks in Alberta while assisting a motorist at the roadside and at least 36 near-misses. Current enforcement of this issue is limited to police randomly encountering towing events on high-speed roadways. In 2020, EPS issued 244 tickets to motorists for not slowing down to pass a stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck when its flashing lights were operating.
"Every Albertan deserves to be safe at work, even if their office is at the side of the road. Slowing down and moving over is not just a slogan. This is about real people at the roadside: their safety and the safety of those they’re helping. We thank Edmonton Police Service for being partners in roadside safety—raising awareness and taking the enforcement of this law seriously—and we encourage all Edmontonians to slow for the tow to keep everyone safe,” says Michelle Chimko, President and CEO of AMA.
In tandem with the pilot, EPS and AMA have launched the Slow for the Tow social media and public awareness campaign, designed to increase Edmonton motorists’ awareness of passing laws. Through this combination of public education, strategic enforcement, and community partnership, TSU continues to support safer drivers and roadways within the City of Edmonton.
The announcement of this joint initiative comes during Canada’s Road Safety Week (May17-23), a public awareness campaign led by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s Traffic Safety Committee. The 2022 Safer You. Safer Me.” campaign is designed to increase public compliance with safe driving measures to save lives and reduce injuries on our roads.