Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said the change is being proposed to improve workers’ safety

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Alberta is considering new legislation to better protect roadside workers from the cars driving past them.

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If passed, Bill 5 The Traffic Safety Amendment Act, tabled in the legislature Wednesday, would require drivers in all lanes of traffic traveling on the same side of the road as a stopped emergency or roadside worker vehicle slow down to 60 km/h or the speed limit, whatever is lower, when the vehicle’s lights are flashing.

The same rules would apply to vehicles traveling in both directions on highways that only have one lane in each direction.

Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said the change is being proposed to improve workers’ safety and to align Alberta’s laws with those in other Canadian provinces.

“The proposed changes under Bill 5 will give similar protection to snowplow operators and roadside maintenance workers that first responders, tow truck operators, and construction crews have had under the Traffic Safety Act,” she said.

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If passed, the new rules would not start until spring of 2023 after the government launches a public information campaign. Regulations laying out exactly what the new fine would be for breaking the rules still have to be decided.

Current fines for passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road can range from $136 to $826, depending on the speed.

“As spring approaches, there will be more workers on our roads, repairing and maintaining them. Others will be helping stranded motorists and those in emergencies. So please, please slow down and give our first responders and maintenance workers the room they need to work safely,” Sawhney said.

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Between March 2018 and March 2021, Alberta Transportation reports that there were 128 collisions involving government-contracted snowplows.

An online survey last year of 15,000 Albertans found that a majority supported increasing the laws beyond what is being proposed in Bill 5. Ninety-two per cent of those surveyed supported requiring all vehicles to provide one lane of space when passing a roadside worker vehicle when its lights are flashing.

Sawhney said she would be open to considering additional changes in the future.

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