OPP officer struck by car tells drivers to respect 'move over' law
OPP charge 2,250 drivers in 2016 for breaking law aimed at protecting emergency workers
About the same time Constable Daniel Pyrah realized he couldn't feel his legs, he looked in his rearview mirror and saw the bloodied face of the driver who had smashed into his parked police cruiser.
The OPP officer had been sitting on the shoulder of Hwy 407 near Pearson International Airport when a pickup truck traveling at 87 km/hr crashed into the back of his marked vehicle.
"I didn't think I was going to live through it," said Pyrah, 52, thinking back to the 2010 accident that ruptured two disks in his back and left the other driver with a broken neck.
"I had my seatbelt on and my body armor on as well, and I think that saved my life."
Countless emergency workers hit
Pyrah, who now lives in constant pain, suffers from PTSD and can no longer carry the weight of body armor, is one of many emergency workers hit every year while stopped on the side of Ontario's major highways.
While drivers are required by law to slow down and pull over on multi-lane highways when they spot a marked vehicle on the shoulder, police continue to stop drivers who claim they were unaware of the law's existence.
The legislation also exists in other provinces and the United States.
"People will be flying by and we'll go out and stop them and they'll have no idea they were required by law to move over," said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.
More than 2,250 drivers have been charged and fined between $400 and $2,000 so far this year — an increase from the year before when 2000 drivers were stopped.
Schmidt estimates if police forces had more than one patrol car at the scene of an accident, the statistics would jump substantially.
"It would be far more if we had a second officer helping us because we can't stop people when we're helping someone else."
Pyrah believes stiffer penalties would encourage more drivers to obey the law.
Incidents costing lives
Four police officers have died from Niagara Falls to Chatham in the past 20 years with police reporting about one non-fatal collision each month.
A tow-truck driver was killed changing a tire near Windsor in 2012 prompting the government to rewrite the "move over" law to include that type of service vehicle.
"I think there should be jail time but I'm not the decision maker," Pyrah said.
Once nicknamed "Mr. 401" by his supervisor because of the amount of time he spent patrolling Canada's busiest highway, Pyrah now works at a desk, unable to sit or stand for longer than 20 minutes.
"Just give us a lane," he tells drivers. "We just want to go home at the end of the day to see our families."