Paramedics ask Winnipeggers to keep calm, signal on amid busy roadwork

Obstructive roadwork is frustrating enough for the average driver, but the snarling traffic jams are more than just an inconvenience to ambulance drivers in a race against time.

Construction-related traffic snags crop up while driving ambulances on emergency calls

Summer roadwork in Winnipeg is frustrating enough for the average driver, but the snarling traffic jams are more than just an inconvenience to a paramedic driving an ambulance in a race against time. (B Calkins/Shutterstock)

Stay calm in construction areas and signal your intentions, paramedics say to motorists navigating one of Winnipeg's busiest road construction years in recent memory.

Advanced-care paramedic Ryan Woiden said paramedics understand it's not always clear as a driver what you should do to make space for an ambulance, especially amid the 100-plus road construction projects already underway in Winnipeg this summer. The city has plans for more than 200 road projects this season.

"We certainly have some bumpy roads out there," said Woiden, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union Local 911, which represents paramedics.

He asks people moving through or stuck in a construction zone to try to maintain their composure and follow the standard advice: flip the signal on and move as far to the right as possible.

"Try to let us know what you're thinking," Woiden told CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Thursday. "In general, we'd like people to just stay calm, signal to the right and pull over when it's safe to do so."

Construction pylons and road closures can cause confusion and anxiety for drivers when an emergency vehicles comes barrelling toward them in the rearview mirror. Some don't always know what to do when the right lane they're supposed to move into is itself blocked off and under construction.

Winnipeg plans to spend $116 million on road renewal in 2018. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Woiden said though moving into the shoulder lane on the right is technically the right thing to do, when that option isn't available, it's important to clearly indicate what you plan to do.

"If you happen to signal to the left, at least I know you're going to the left," he said.

He also suggests people lower their radio volumes enough to hear a siren approaching and keep their phones out of reach. The Winnipeg Police Service plans to crack down on drivers caught on their phones during "distracted driving month" this July.

Paramedics have been talking a lot about construction-related traffic snags on the southern part of Pembina Highway this summer, where crews are working on an extension of the rapid transit corridor, Woiden said.

Ellice Avenue has gone down to one lane in each direction in part of the West End, as has McPhillips Street near the underpass at Logan Avenue. Both those zones are also on paramedics' radars as congested areas.

"We realize that it is gridlock out there and construction has to happen, so really it's just a matter of staying calm and communicating to us what your plans are," he said. "If it's not to move at all at a stoplight, then we will make adjustments to it."

It is legal for vehicles stopped at a red light that are impeding an emergency vehicle to pull ahead to clear a path, if it's safe to do so.

More from CBC Manitoba:


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.