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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Go Slow For Emergency Crews in Canada's British Columbia

Here's The Vancouver Sun story:

Beginning today (June 1), B.C. drivers must slow down when approaching emergency crews, and move over into an adjacent lane, if there's another one going in the same direction.

Rule-breakers face a $148 fine and three penalty points against their licences.

Where the speed limit is 80 km/h or more, drivers must slow to 70 kilometres per hour, 40 km/h in areas where the limit is below 80 km/h.

Saanich police said B.C. is the sixth province to enact such a regulation.

Const. Paul Lamoureux applauded the law, recalling a now-retired Saanich officer who was injured when he was rear-ended on the Patricia Bay Highway by a wayward motorist.

"The bottom line is it's going to help improve the safety of police officers, ambulance paramedics, firefighters, tow-truck operators -- all those people who have, in the past, been killed by motorists flying by.

"It just gives us one more layer of protection on the road."

Besides police, ambulance and fire crews, the regulations require drivers to yield to tow-truck operators, special provincial constables and conservation officers and park rangers working outside of their emergency vehicles.

Twenty-one emergency workers were killed or injured on B.C. roads between 2001 and 2007.

One of them was Ernie Semkiw, a 50-year-old Vernon tow-truck driver.

The grandfather was struck and killed in December 2006, while helping tow a disabled vehicle near Vernon. Semkiw had stuck flashing lights all over the vehicle, but the driver who killed him failed to slow down.

The car struck Semkiw and he died from his injuries on the roadside.

"That could have been avoided with this kind of legislation in place," said Keith McLachlan, owner of Vernon Towing, Semkiw's employer at the time.

McLachlan lobbied for three years for the change and picked up some powerful supporters along the way -- ambulance drivers, police and firefighters.

"There was no adversity bringing this law to bear."

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