Last week, an RCMP officer was seated in his police vehicle on the shoulder of the Trans Canada Highway with his emergency lights activated, when his car was struck from behind by a passing westbound semi-trailer.
RCMP Media Relations Officer, Sergeant Paul Manaigre says, "we had an officer from the Headingly detachment just coming up to a semi that we believe had been involved in a collision earlier in the morning. Nothing serious though, it was just stopped on the Trans-Canada facing west. He pulled in behind it, was doing some checks and then I guess a semi behind him - which the driver states he did not see the police vehicle . . . noticed that the police car in front of him was stopped, and I guess in order to try to avoid a collision kind of veers to the left but ended up striking the vehicle in the rear drivers side, and it pushed the police car forward."
He notes that at 7:30 a.m. the emergency lights are easily visible, but believes the driver might not have been paying attention to the road. As it was a two-lane highway, the driver should have slowed down and passed in the lane that provided the greatest distance from the obstruction.
Any road posted as 80km/h or upwards means you must slow down to 60km/h, whereas a road with a posted speed limit of 79km/h or lower requires you to slow down to 40km/h.
"At this point, it's not just police vehicles, but any type of emergency vehicle, a tow truck, anything where construction equipment [is] or you have people that are working on the side of the road. The law now requires that people need to slow down," says Manaigre.
The Pembina Valley is filled with single lane, undivided highways which means if there is an obstruction coming up ahead of you and it is unsafe to pass in the oncoming lane, you may have to stop on the highway. If you are able to pass in the other lane, it's important to signal your intentions and slow down accordingly. This can also be beneficial for vehicles behind you that may not be able to see the obstruction past you.
In the case that an emergency vehicle is coming with their lights flashing, it does not matter which direction you are travelling. You must slow down and pull over to the shoulder so as to allow room for them to safely pass.
Manaigre says, "if I'm going, let's say northbound at a high rate of speed with my lights activated, I'll usually see the southbound people will be doing their part and pulling over to the shoulder. It's the northbound people directly in front of me [that] are assuming I'm just going to pass them. Well by me doing that now, I'm putting myself in a dangerous position because now I'm putting myself in potentially oncoming traffic."
He adds drivers need to make sure they are not distracted so that they have time to react quickly if necessary. The longer you have to assess the situation or obstruction, the more time you have to react accordingly and safely.