Ministry of Transportation / Ministère des Transports
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X. Dealing with particular situations
Reacting to a stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck

approaching an emergency vehicle

Diagram 2-57

When approaching any emergency vehicle that is stopped with its red, or red and blue, lights flashing or a tow truck with its amber lights flashing in the same direction of your travel, you are required to reduce the speed of your vehicle and proceed with caution.

If your vehicle has a manual transmission, it is recommended that you use your brakes, versus shifting down to a lower gear, in order to activate your rear brake lights and indicate to other drivers that you are slowing down.

When the roadway has two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction of your travel, you are required to move into a lane away from the emergency vehicle or tow truck, if safe to do so, in addition to reducing the speed of your vehicle and proceeding with caution. Similar to the procedures noted above, when slowing down and moving over, look in front and on both sides of your vehicle, and check your rearview mirrors, to determine the speed of the traffic around you and condition of the roadway. Proceed to decrease your speed similar to surrounding traffic speed, use your turn signal prior to making the lane change, and double check your rearview mirrors and shoulder check your blind spots to ensure no other vehicles are moving into or approaching that lane too fast. When safe to do so, change lanes well in advance of an emergency vehicle or a stopped tow truck with its flashing amber lights. Once in the lane, brake gradually and continue to reduce the speed of your vehicle when safe to do so. Be aware of any vehicles approaching fast to the rear of your vehicle.

Tips to remember

  • Stay alert. Avoid distractions. Keep the noise level down in your vehicle.
  • Remain calm, and do not make sudden lane changes or brake excessively.
  • Before changing direction or speed, consider road conditions, check surrounding traffic, use your mirrors, look to blind spots, and signal and brake early.
  • Keep roadway shoulders, intersections and highway ramps clear for emergency-vehicle use.
  • If your vehicle is being pulled over, in this instance, bring it to a safe stop on the shoulder of the roadway, away from traffic, following any directions from the officer.

Failing to respond to an emergency vehicle

Take emergency flashing lights and sirens seriously. Proceed with caution, clear the way and bring your vehicle to a stop, where required. It’s the law. Penalties and fines regarding reacting to an approaching or stopped emergency vehicle include:

First Offence: $400 to $2,000, plus three demerit points upon conviction.

Second Offence (within 5 years): $1,000 to $4,000, possible jail time up to six months and possible suspension of driver’s licence for up to two years.

Please note the above law, fines and penalties are also applicable to a tow truck with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of amber light that is stopped on a highway.