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Province to lower highway speeds around emergency workers

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The province announced today it plans to lower speed limits for drivers passing emergency workers on highways.

The new rules would apply to drivers passing police, firefighters, paramedics and towtrucks with flashing beacons.

In addition, the new rules would authorize firefighters to control traffic during emergencies and at collision scenes when the police are not at the scene, or under the direction of a police officer.

"Emergency workers must be able to do their jobs without fear of being hit by a speeding vehicle," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said today. "It is tragic when police, paramedics, firefighters or other emergency workers are hurt or killed while helping injured people at an accident scene or when assisting stranded motorists on the roadside."

Under this plan, there would be a reduced speed limit of 40 km/h on highways where there is a normal speed limit of less than 79 km/h, when passing emergency or designated vehicles (towtrucks and vehicles used by government enforcement officers) stopped or working on the highway, with their beacons flashing, Ashton said. Where the normal speed limit is 80 km/h or more, the reduced speed limit would be 60 km/h.

Current rules require motorists to proceed with caution when approaching emergency vehicles on their side of a highway. The new rules would also require drivers to slow down and proceed with caution when approaching an emergency or designated vehicle working on either side of the highway, unless it is a divided highway, the minister said.

In situations where traffic is flowing in two directions on an undivided highway, the new rules would clearly improve safety as vehicles are required to slow down, regardless of their direction of travel, Ashton said. This is similar to the requirement for motorists to stop for a school bus that has a warning device operating, regardless of direction of travel on an undivided highway.

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