Protecting roadside workers: Alberta gears up for new rules coming in September
Health & Safety alberta first responders Legislation Road Safety Snowplow
Alberta is kicking off a campaign to educate the public about new rules designed to keep roadside workers safe that take effect in September.
The province said the changes — detailed in the Traffic Safety Amendment Act, 2022 — are “extensive” and it will take time to ensure drivers understand the new rules and the associated penalties.
The new legislation gives snowplow operators and roadside maintenance teams the same legislated protection as first responders, tow truck operators and construction crews. Having consistent traffic rules for all roadside workers also reduces confusion for motorists and increases highway safety, it said.
It noted that there were 128 collisions with highway snowplows between March 2018 and March 2021. And the Alberta Motor Association reported 25 near misses and three serious collissions with their service vehicles between January 2018 and January 2019.
“Near misses and collisions are a regular occurrence for Alberta’s tow truck operators, emergency responders and other roadside workers,” said Michelle Chimko, president and CEO of the Alberta Motor Association in March 2022 when the legislation was unveiled.
“We applaud these changes as an important first step in improving the safety of these essential workers and look forward to our continued work in further improving their visibility and safety. We ask all Albertans to take care when passing a roadside scene. Those few extra seconds can make all the difference in keeping someone’s loved one safe.”
Slowing down to 60 km/h – or less
The new legislation also requires drivers to slow down to 60 km/h or the posted speed limit (whichever is lower) in all lanes travelling in the same direction on multi-lane highways. The same speed limits apply when travelling in either direction on single lane highways.
“Roadside workers work in a high-risk environment and deserve the best protection so that they can go home safely to their families at the end of their shift,” said then Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney in March 2022 when the bill was introduced. “That’s why, following consultations with the public and stakeholders, Alberta’s government is proposing these changes to protect all those working along our highways.”
Fines doubled when workers present
The fines for speeding are doubled when workers or emergency responders are present, it said. As of Sept. 1, 2023, fines will be as follows:
The province also noted that construction or maintenance zones will have roadway signs to warn drivers that work is being done. But even if there are no signs, your fine could be doubled if workers are present, it said.
It calls on drivers to use caution and slow down when approaching emergency or a construction/maintenance situation.
“Always be aware that vehicles ahead of you may stop suddenly,” it said. “Obey directions by flag people or emergency workers.”
Use of flashing blue lights
Transportation and Economic Corridors has also extended the registrar’s exemption to permit the use of flashing blue lights to increase the visibility of tow trucks, support vehicles, government-contracted snowplows and highway maintenance vehicles for five years (to February 2028).
The initial one-year blue light pilot project demonstrated the effectiveness of increasing visibility and safety for Alberta’s roadside workers, it said.