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Apr 21, 2022

6 min. read

Tow truck drivers are considered essential workers, as they often put themselves at risk to ensure the safety of road users.

In 2015, Ontario passed a law that requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching a stopped tow truck with amber lights flashing.

It’s designed to make this dangerous job safer, deeming tow operators as necessary emergency workers, like firefighters and paramedics.

But seven years later, towing cars remains a hazardous occupation.

Discouraging data

A CAA survey found that only 55 percent of Ontario drivers give space to tow operators—far below the rate for other emergency responders.

And according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, even the number of drivers who know they must slow down and move over for emergency vehicles dropped seven percent between 2017 and 2021.

These are worrying numbers—and a clear sign that more awareness is needed about Ontario's Slow Down Move Over Law, say road safety advocates.

“Tow truck driving is a dangerous job,” says Teresa Di Felice, the assistant vice president of government and community relations with CAA South Central Ontario.

“Every year across North America, tow truck drivers are injured or killed by passing vehicles,” she says. “It's concerning that people just don't understand how significant a problem this is.”

Steep penalties

In Ontario, it’s mandatory for drivers to reduce their speed and proceed with caution when passing stopped fire trucks, ambulances or police vehicles with their emergency lights flashing under the Highway Traffic Act.

Motorists must do the same for stopped tow trucks when their amber lights are on.

If the road has two or more lanes and it's safe to do so, drivers should also change lanes to create a buffer zone between them and emergency vehicles.

Failing to follow the law can result in a fine ranging from $400 to $2,000 and three demerit points. Repeat offenders who have multiple charges within a five-year period face fines of up to $4,000, a two-year licence suspension and up to six months in jail.

In 2021, the Ontario Provincial Police laid 883 charges under this law and about 600 of those were male drivers.

Getting the word out

To highlight the dangers facing tow truck drivers and draw attention to the legislation meant to protect them, this year, May 10, 2022 is designated as National Slow Down, Move Over Day.

To generate further awareness, CAA is creating a video to encourage new drivers to consider the safety of tow operators while on the road.

Targeted at a younger audience, the video will appear on its website, social media channels, as well as ads on YouTube and Spotify.

It shows how tow truck operators are providing a life-saving service when they rescue a stranded driver from the side of a busy highway.

“At CAA, we call it a roadside rescue because you are being rescued,” De Felice says. "We need to be able to protect those who are giving that protection.”

Curb your speed

To learn more about road safety and the Slow Down, Move Over law, visit caasco.com/slowdown.

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