Slow, dangerous drivers targeted by new law

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is changing and clarifying some of the more ambiguous rules of the road.

Changes won't take effect until next summer

Service NL Minister Dan Crummell says changes to the Highway Traffic Act should become law by next summer. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is changing and clarifying some of the more ambiguous rules of the road.

The key revisions involve slow-moving traffic, school zones, reporting of accidents and emergency vehicles.

Drivers in the St. John's area will likely applaud one rule in particular, which targets slow traffic on major thoroughfares and highways, such as the Outer Ring Road.

Service NL Minister Dan Crummell said he's heard the complaints from frustrated drivers, noting an increase in traffic on the province's roads made the changes necessary.

"Obviously, slow-moving vehicles like a backhoe or a front-end loader travelling on a busy highway can cause dangerous situations ... backlogs of traffic, people cutting in and out of traffic, bottlenecks, changing lanes, and abrupt braking," Crummell said.

"So this is a common sense piece of legislation that I think everybody's happy with."

New laws will require companies to transport tractors and other heavy equipment to a job site, rather than clog up roads by driving them there.

There are some exceptions where work is happening on a highway, or for farmers who can get one-time permits to drive tractors on roads in more rural areas.

New legislation is also in the works, to specify that all emergency vehicles must stop at red lights and stop signs when responding to calls, before proceeding through intersections.

Already happening

Crummell said most, if not all first responders are already doing that.

"We're just following best practices," he said. "They're doing that now in all jurisdictions ... coming to full stops. So we are following behind them now, making sure we enact it in legislation."

The minister said he doesn't believe the law affects response times.

"No, not at all. The police forces, the ambulance community ... they're all doing this already."

Another key change involves when an accident must be reported to police. The current threshold is $1,000, but that will double next year.

"We know that with the rate of inflation and cost of vehicles today, that a little scrape on the side of your vehicle could be a thousand dollars [in damage]," said Crummell.

"Is there a need to report that to police? Absolutely not. It's just a bureaucratic tie-up. We want our police out there doing other work, so we've moved it to $2,000 and that's consistent with other jurisdictions."

As for school zones, the province plans to install better signage and change wording in the act to make it easier for police to ticket speeders and dangerous drivers.

Crummell said while 50 km/h is the maximum in a school zone, towns can reduce it further under the act.

The new legislation should be proclaimed in the spring and would take effect three months later.

"So, we'll have a three-month window to communicate the changes to the public, and we'll have a full-fledged communications plan around that," Crummell said.


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