Alberta increasing protection for roadside workers this winter

'We owe it to them to drive responsibly so that each of us can get home safely'

Alberta increasing protection for roadside workers this winter
Driver safety is essential in the winter.

Alberta is allowing snowplow operators on its highways to use flashing white strobe lights to increase their visibility, and installing new signage along highways to remind Albertans to drive to conditions and be cautious near roadside workers this winter.

“Snowplow and tow truck drivers are essential workers who face significant risks as they keep our highways clear and safe for travel. New lights and signage will make sure workers are more visible on the highway and encourage motorists to be alert to roadside workers,” said Ric McIver, minister of transportation. “As drivers and fellow Albertans, we owe it to them to drive responsibly so that each of us can get home safely.”

The province will also hold a social media campaign to educate locals about the need to drive safely this winter, including when driving past snowplow operators and tow trucks.

It will also consult with Albertans throughout the winter to gauge their awareness of worker safety and identify further steps that should be taken to protect roadside workers, including the expanded use of lights. Any decision would be made based on evidence that usage improves safety, according to the government.

In February, Alberta looked for feedback on commercial transportation rules and how they can be improved to ensure that drivers are safe on the road.

Also, the government has also improved the 511 Alberta app and website, which now have the capability to alert drivers with an audible ping when they approach a snowplow on Alberta highways.

In 2019-20, there were 31 collisions with snowplows operated by Alberta highway maintenance contractors, according to the government. Speeding fines also double in construction zones where workers are present.

The Traffic Safety Act provides protection for first responders by mandating all motorists in the adjacent lane slow down to 60 km/h (or the posted speed limit, whichever is slower) when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing.

The initiatives received positive feedback from Terry O’Flanagan, safety coordinator, Carmacks Enterprises Ltd.

“Carmacks is fully committed to the safety of the travelling public and our team members. As such, we support all initiatives undertaken by the Government of Alberta that increase public awareness and provide focus and education on the importance of roadside worker safety,” said O’Flanagan.

In December 2019, Saskatchewan reminded the public to drive safely and follow snowplow laws in the winter to keep operators safe on the job.

Forty per cent of Canadians believe distracted driving is the number one cause of car-related deaths, surpassing impaired driving (33 per cent), according to a survey from auto insurer released in February.