Blog Move Over Law In Ontario

Nov 3, 2021

Slow Down, Move Over For Emergency Vehicles

cars on the side of the road oncoming ambulance

Did you know that it’s the law to move over for emergency vehicles and tow trucks?

Even though Ontario was one of the first provinces to implement these traffic laws, it seems as though most drivers are not because they are increasingly getting tickets for failing to move over for emergency vehicles.

Despite being enacted over 10 years ago, hundreds of drivers continue to be unaware or non-compliant. According to the OPP, there have been 1,708 charges laid last year and more than 9,300 charges over the last five years.

So, what exactly do you do when you approach a police car, ambulance, or firetruck? Are there specific rules to follow to prevent a collision? In 2015 the law was updated to include more than moving over to the side of the road when the vehicles approach.

As drivers, we must drive defensively to keep them safe while they do their jobs. This blog post provides a definition, fines, penalties, and driving tips to help you abide by the Ontario move over law.

What Is The Move Over Law In Ontario?

Ontario’s move over law, or Section 159 (2,3) of the Highway Traffic Act, states that you must slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle or tow truck with flashing lights. Emergency vehicles include ambulances, fire vehicles, police cars, tow trucks, and public utility vehicles.

As a driver, you must :

  • Slow down : Reduce your speed and slow down to less than the posted speed limit.
  • Pass with caution : Proceed with caution or pass.
  • Move over : If the road has two or more lanes, you must move over and provide a lane of space between your vehicle and the emergency vehicle.

Move Over Law Ontario Fines

If you are convicted for not obeying the move over law, you can face a $400 to $2,000 fine plus three demerit points.

Subsequent offences (within five years) carry a $1,000 to $4,000 fine, possible jail time of up to six months and possible suspension of your driver’s licence for up to two years.

Either of those outcomes can also lead to an increase in your Ontario car insurance.

Move Over Law Across Canada

Province across the country have their own rules and regulation for moving over for emergency vehicles. Always double-check the laws of the place you are driving in.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador : When approaching a stopped emergency vehicle, drivers travelling in the same direction must slow to at least 30 km/h than the posted speed limit, come to a stop (where possible), or change lanes if there is one available. Only pass when it is safe to do so.
  • Nova Scotia : You must slow down to 60km/h or obey the speed limit if it’s lower than 60km/h if you see an emergency vehicle pulled over with its lights flashing. If you are on the road with two or more lanes, you can move over safely and pass.
  • PEI : If drivers see a tow truck or emergency vehicle, they must slow down to half the speed and move over a lane if it is safe to do so.
  • New Brunswick : Like PEI, motorists must slow down to a maximum of half the speed limit if tow trucks, highway maintenance vehicles, plus private and public utility vehicles have their lights flashing.
  • Quebec : Unlike other provinces, which have a strict rule on speed, Quebec suggests motorists slow down to a safe, reasonable speed and change lanes if possible.
  • Manitoba : You must slow to 40 km/h if the speed limit in the location of the emergency vehicle or a designated vehicle is more than 40 km/h but not more than 79 km/h, and 60 km/h if the speed is 80 km/h or higher.
  • Saskatchewan : “Know the risks. Slow down, move over” is the motto in Saskatchewan. Drivers must slow down to at least 60 km/h for all emergency workers and trucks.
  • Alberta : Motorists are required by law to slow to 60 km/h or less if the posted speed is lower when passing. They should also move over a lane if safely possible.
  • British Columbia : When approaching, motorists must slow their speed to 70km/h when in a zone with a limit of 80km/h or more. If the roadway has a limit below that, they must drop to 40km/h.
  • Yukon : There is no slow down, move over law in the Yukon, but they strongly advocate for it. In the drivers' handbook, they highlight emergency vehicles do have the right of way.
  • Northwest Territories : Slow down, leave space, change lanes if necessary, and be prepared to stop. There is no suggested lower speed limit.
  • Nunavut : Like NWT, there is no posted speed to lower to, but the government suggests always giving space and way to first-line vehicles. Pullover to the right side as far as you can and as safe as it is. Never block an intersection, and be prepared to stop.

Tips For Moving For An Emergency Vehicle

flashing red and blue police lights

Depending on what type of road you are driving on, you have a few options to properly move over for emergency vehicles :

At an intersection

  • Traffic all directions much yield and give right of way to emergency vehicles.
  • Do not block the intersection.
  • If the vehicle is approaching behind you, proceed through the intersection, pull to the right, and stop.

On a one-way road

  • Signal and pull over the right or left side of the street, clear of any intersection, and stop.

On a two-way road

  • Signal and pull to the right. Pull as close to the right edge of the road, clear of any intersections and stop.

On a multi-lane highway

  • Slow down, signal, and move to the right. Pull as close as you can to the right side of the roadway.
  • Don’t move onto the shoulder.

Here are some tips for reacting responsibly when an emergency vehicle is present :

  • Stay alert : Avoid driving distracted and keep your eyes on the road at all times. Check your mirrors and look in front and on both sides of your vehicle.
  • Be cautious : Approach emergency vehicles with caution and give them space to operate. When the emergency vehicle has passed, check to ensure the way is clear before merging onto the road.
  • Use your signals : Use your signal when you intend to make a lane change to move over for emergency vehicles.
  • No sudden movements : Avoid braking suddenly or making a sudden lane change. Check your blind spot and assess road conditions before changing direction or speed.
  • Stay on the road : Don’t block or drive on the shoulder on freeways.
  • Do not follow : It’s illegal to follow a fire vehicle or ambulance responding to a call within 150 metres.

Move Over Law FAQs

They are – if you notice a tow truck with flashing amber lights stopped on the side of the road, you are legally required to slow down and proceed with caution.

It can – if you are convicted of not obeying the move over law, you can be ticketed and fined, which can lead to an increase in your car insurance.

Slow down, move over is a law that the Ontario government has placed to remind drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles and tow trucks. They implemented it to improve the safety of workers and drivers when they see flashing lights behind them or approach a scene.