Manitoba

Winnipeg drivers failing to slow down, move over for tow trucks: CAA

Winnipeg drivers still haven’t learned to slow down and move over when passing tow trucks on the side of the road, according to a recent experiment by CAA and the Winnipeg Police Service.
A CAA tow truck was hit on Lagimodiere Boulevard on Dec. 16, 2015 while the driver was trying to pull another vehicle from the ditch. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

Winnipeg drivers still haven't learned to slow down and move over when passing tow trucks on the side of the road, according to a recent experiment by CAA and the Winnipeg Police Service.

When a tow truck is stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing, the Highway Traffic Act requires drivers to move over one lane on multi-lane roads. They must also slow down to 60 km/h in 80 km/h or higher speed zones, or 40 km/h if the speed limit is less than 80 km/h. The rule came into effect in 2011.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Automotive Association staged two calls for roadside assistance, one on Portage Avenue, the other on McGillivray Boulevard. They were joined by police officers to determine how many drivers complied with the law.

Only 11 out of 598 drivers slowed down and moved over on McGillivray. On Portage, only one driver out of 436 did both.

CAA spokesperson Liz Kulyk attributed part of the lack of compliance among Winnipeg drivers to the fact that Manitoba has not had a fatality or serious injury of a CAA driver.

"We don't want to wait until there's a death or significant injury on the side of the road, but unfortunately we see where those kinds of things happen, that's when awareness is increased," Kulyk said.

Tow truck driver Courtney Schaefer died after a collision on a Highway 22 in southeastern Saskatchewan on March 7, 2017. (Facebook)

In March, Courtney Schaefer, a Saskatchewan tow truck driver, died after being hit on Highway 22.

"So awareness in Saskatchewan about this, from chatting with my counterparts, is really high. It's a pretty horrible thing to think that that has to happen before people start paying attention," Kulyk said.

New behaviour

Although Manitoba's law has been on the books for more than half a decade, Kulyk says that isn't that much time for drivers to adopt the new behaviour.

"If you think about how long it took for people to start wearing seatbelts, it was a couple decades before it became socially unacceptable, if you will, to not wear your seatbelt," she said. "And we feel like the same with this. People still just don't know."

Kulyk also suggested people might change their behaviour if police start handing out more tickets.

"It's a more difficult law to enforce unless they have a situation like what we did, where we staged a service call on the side of the road. But deterrence is a big part of it, too, right? If you get caught once, hopefully you'll never do it again."

A car slammed into the back of a tow truck on the highway near Nesbitt, Man., on Dec. 20, 2016. (Facebook/Full Tilt Towing and Transport )

Kulyk said she hopes campaigns like this help to raise awareness. CAA also alerts the media whenever there is a near-collision or injury of one of their drivers, she said. 

CAA's drivers feel unsafe because motorists don't give them enough space to work, Kulyk said. "When you're working on the side of the road, you can't be thinking about the cars, because you've got a job in front of you.

"But instead you find yourself checking over your shoulder every couple of seconds to make sure you're not going to get sideswiped."

Kulyk has asked tow truck drivers whether they would prefer drivers slow down or move over. "And they said both are so necessary and so important."

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