Looking out for others…
plus Road Work Season
by: R. Bruce Thomas
EDIT from AMSS: At the time of this article was written and published (July 31, 2023), the changes were expected to be what you read below - simply adding in snowplows and the move over a lane. At this time, there is concern that the government has made a change where not all lanes need to slow to 60 km/h however the adjacent lane MUST slow to 60 AND move over to a lane that could have a speed limit of 100. We do not feel this is safe in any way. We hope that the government takes another look at this last minute change and put the safety back to the original proposed slow down and move over law. Please click here for the news story about the update.
This month I want to raise awareness of a VERY BIG CHANGE coming to Alberta Highway law1 on September 1.
At present, the law requires that vehicles in the adjacent lane to tow trucks and/or emergency vehicles with their lights flashing to slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h, OR to move over one lane to provide room for the vehicle operators to safely work if that lane change can be completed safely.
Starting on Sept 1 the law will change to include roadside maintenance vehicles and snowplows. The law will also now require that vehicles in all lanes on a divided highway in the direction of travel must slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h and vehicles in the adjacent lane must move over to give the operators room to safely work.
And, on undivided highways, vehicles in both directions must slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h when passing the aforementioned vehicles.
Big differences being introduced are the addition of roadside maintenance vehicles and snowplows plus the change from OR to AND in regards to moving over a lane. These changes put the onus on every driver to be aware of the traffic and to assist other road users who have to change lanes by utilizing zipper merge techniques to maintain the smooth flow of traffic.
Example 1 (six-lane divided hwy): when driving northbound between Calgary and Airdrie where there are three lanes for traffic, if there is a snowplow in the right-most lane or on the shoulder with its lights flashing all traffic in every lane must slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h and all traffic in the right-most lane must move at least one lane to the left.
Example 2 (four-lane divided hwy): when driving southbound on Hwy 43 between Whitecourt and Mayerthorpe where there are two lanes for traffic, if there is a tow-truck with its lights flashing on the left shoulder helping a vehicle with a flat tire then all traffic must slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h and all traffic in the left-most lane must move one lane to the right.
Example 3 (two-lane undivided highway): when traveling east between Stettler and Botha on Hwy 12 where there are only two lanes for traffic (one eastbound and one westbound), if there is a police car with its lights flashing in the westbound shoulder then traffic in both directions must slow to the lesser of the speed limit or 60 km/h.
Pay attention to these changes in road safety laws come September 1.
And while the law doesn't require it I would like to suggest you follow the same move over principle when you see any vehicle on the side of the road. A family stopped and trying to change a flat tire on their RV is in just as much jeopardy as first responders and safety personnel, and likely a little more stressed out.
It's summer and that means, in addition to riding season, it's Road Work season.
If you are going to travel anywhere on your motorcycle you have to be prepared for road work and the resultant slow downs and surface changes. In all cases when traversing construction zones allow extra space between yourself and other vehicles, keep your eyes up to see what's coming, relax – don't white-knuckle the bars, be smooth on the controls, avoid your front brake in the loose stuff, and if needed concentrate on the fun at your destination.
Here's a couple of pictures of road work from my travels.
Something else I've noticed in recent years in construction zones is the apparent excessive use of pylons to manage the flow of traffic. I'll admit that some of these may be in place for the safety of the road crews and nobody can argue with that. However, as seen in this next photo, the signage can be problematic for driver visibility.
In this case, in Edmonton's west end, the first time I rode down this street a car was coming out from the side street (where that dark blue truck is) and I couldn't see the driver as the car sits much lower than that truck. If I couldn't see the driver then it is doubtful that they could see me. I didn't have my camera with me and had to return to document the hazard of too many pylons and road signs. Be very cautious in construction zones.
1 – always refer to official Alberta Government rules, regulations, laws and websites for the actual laws and rules of the road. What is presented here is an interpretation. The examples are the author's and, in many cases, the bolding is also by the author.