Lights flashing means slow down when passing.
That’s the message local RCMP and the Alberta Motor Association wanted to get across on Thursday afternoon during a mock emergency scene they set up along Hwy 2 by the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in Red Deer.
A tow truck, AMA vehicle and RCMP cars were parked on the side of the busy highway from 3 to 4 p.m. as part of an educational initiative to show aggressive drivers what is at stake for emergency workers rescuing stranded vehicles.
“It’s purely for education. We have guys set up with a laser monitoring the speed of the vehicles passing the tow truck and emergency vehicles,” said Cpl. Brian Johannson with Central Alberta Integrated Traffic Services.
Anyone who is speeding in the lane next to the tow truck would be pulled in but no tickets were issued on Thursday.
“We’re handing out pamphlets instead to remind people that they do need to slow to 60 km/hr when passing emergency vehicles on the inside lane. It’s the law,” Johannson said. “This law has been in act since October 2005 and we run into huge numbers of people who aren’t aware this law even exists even though all our major highways have signs and it’s on the radio.”
Speed fines are double in Alberta for those with heavy feet passing stopped police vehicles, ambulances, fire and tow trucks with flashing lights.
For those travelling 50 km over, it’s a $703 fine, said Johannson.
Traffic was abiding by the rules and moving slowly on Thursday afternoon for the most part.
“That’s how it goes sometimes. A few vehicles slow down and everyone follows,” Johannson said.
AMA communications specialist Chris Rechner was also on scene Thursday and said there have been a number of close calls recently in the Central Alberta region with AMA staff trying to help stranded cars.
“We try to put up a blocker truck now so we have two vehicles on the scene on a highway or busy road but even then people just speed right by. They’ll shave the cheeks of our drivers. One guy the other day had set out pylons and someone drove right over two of them,” Rechner said.
The speeder just missed the third pylon, where the AMA staff member was near, down on his knees changing a tire.
“If we keep making that connection with people that tow trucks are emergency vehicles and they’re operated by people just like you and me, that they deserve a safe place to go to work, maybe more people will start obeying the law . . . If we can warn people to avoid that behaviour, everyone wins,” Rechner said.
Johannson said a sheriff in the Blackfalds area has had his vehicle hit twice while he was stopped with flashing lights on the side of the road.
“I had to jump over a car to get out of the way because a guy came by so fast,” he added. “All these people have families and they want to get home safe, too.”
It was the first time a mock emergency event was held by police and AMA on a major highway in the Red Deer area.
A similar situation was set up in Calgary on Thursday morning.