Drivesmart column: Emergency vehicles and traffic rules

I hope that the police vehicle was really involved in a situation that required speed and stealth.

By Tim Schewe

In my travels this week I was overtaken by a marked police vehicle traveling at 110 km/h in the posted 90 km/h zone. No emergency equipment was being operated. Instances like this are often complained about by the public as they see the police failing to follow the same traffic rules that they force everyone else to obey.

So, let’s examine the rules that allow the police, fire and ambulance drivers to disobey some traffic rules and what they must do to exercise these privileges.

These privileges are granted in section 122 of the Motor Vehicle Act. It allows the driver to:

• Exceed the speed limit

• Not stop for red lights or stop signs

• Disregard rules and traffic control devices governing direction of movement or turning in specified directions

• Stop or park

This must be done with due regard for safety, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including:

• The nature, condition and use of the highway

• The amount of traffic that is on, or might reasonably be expected to be on the highway

• The nature of the use being made of the emergency vehicle at the time

The Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation places additional conditions on the driver depending on whether or not it is a pursuit, an emergency response by a police officer or emergency response by fire or emergency medical services.

Police may respond without using emergency lights and siren to an incident where the risk of harm to the public through using emergency equipment outweighs the risk of responding without it.

In the general execution of their duties police must have reasonable and probable grounds to believe it is safe to operate without emergency equipment. This exemption does not apply in school and playground zones.

Fire apparatus and ambulances may not disobey traffic rules unless emergency lights and siren are activated with the exception of stopping, standing or parking. In that case only emergency lights are required to be used.

There is another group of road users that may disregard the rules for traffic movement. They do not apply to persons, vehicles and other equipment while actually engaged in highway or public utility, construction or maintenance work on, under or over the surface of a highway while at the site of the work.

Of course, they must execise the same care and are governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation for traffic control while doing so.

I hope that the police vehicle that passed me was really involved in a situation that required both speed and stealth.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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