The phrase “move over!” is more than something angry road-raged drivers shout at those they’re driving behind—it’s now the law. Since 2009, drivers have been legally required to switch lanes and “move over” for emergency vehicles. As of September 1, 2015, this law has expanded to require drivers to move over for tow trucks and bicycles as well. This change could not come sooner, with the increasing number of cyclists being struck and “doored” by drivers, and the recent run down of a tow trucker driver on Highway 417.
Bill 31, also known as the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, enacted various amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, including the requirement that drivers move over for tow trucks and bicycles. Drivers travelling on the same side of the highway as an emergency vehicle or a tow truck with its lights engaged must now slow down, proceed with caution, and move into another lane (provided the move can be made safely). These precautions are to ensure that drivers do not collide with the emergency vehicle or tow truck or endanger any person outside of the emergency vehicle or tow truck. Failure to abide by this new law will result in a fine between $400.00 and $4,000.00.
Drivers passing a cyclist must now leave at least a one-metre distance (measured from the right side of the vehicle to the left side of the cyclist, including all projections and attachments) until safely past the cyclist. A failure to do so will result in a $110.00 fine and loss of two demerit points. In a community safe zone, this is increased to a $180.00 fine and loss of two demerit points. The penalty for the “dooring” of cyclists and vehicles is now a fine between $300.00 and $1,000.00 and loss of three demerit points.
Apart from the fines and loss of demerit points, drivers who violate these new laws could end up paying thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damages to injured emergency personnel, tow truck drivers or cyclists and their families. This is because in addition to raising awareness of drivers’ safety, this new regime also provides a more concrete foundation for injured victims to prove that the at-fault driver was negligent.
Why is this the case? The negligence tort regime in Ontario with respect to motor vehicle accidents requires the injured person to prove two things: (1) that the driver was liable (i.e., the driver was responsible for and caused the injury); and (2) the damages of the injured person (which includes general damages for pain and suffering, loss of income and future care costs). Breaking the law is a surefire way of proving the first requirement—that the driver was liable.
Through the enactment of this new regime, our roads will hopefully “move over” into a safer space for cyclists, tow truck drivers and drivers alike. For more information regarding your new obligations and other recent changes to the Highway Traffic Act, visit the Ministry of Transportation’s website at www.mto.gov.on.ca.
Written by Victoria Boddy and Stephanie Lalonde.
Victoria Boddy is an Associate with the law firm of Howard Yegendorf & Associates. Victoria can be reached at 613-237-5000 ext. 240 or email@example.com. For more information about Victoria, please visit www.yegendorflawfirm.ca.
Stephanie Lalonde is an Articling Student with the law firm of Howard Yegendorf & Associates. Stephanie can be reached at 613-237-5000 ext. 272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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