How Significant Is a Ticket For Failing to Properly React to An Emergency Vehicle Such As An Ambulance, Fire Truck, Police, or Tow Truck, Among Others?

Failing to Properly React to An Emergency Vehicle May Result In a Fine Ranging From $400 to $2,000 For a First Offence and Between $1,000 and $4,000 For a Subsequent Offence. Significant Affects to Insurance Rates May Also Result.

Understanding the Law Requiring Drivers to Slow and Yield or Stop For Emergency Vehicles Such As Ambulance, Fire, or Police

When an emergency vehicle such as an ambulance, a fire truck, or a police car, is responding to an emergency, or even where a tow truck is attending at an accident scene or attending to help the driver of a disabled vehicle, the law requires all other drivers to slow and yield or stop depending on the nature of the emergency vehicle or circumstance.

The Law

The requirements for how to react when approaching, following, or being followed, by an emergency vehicle are found in section 159 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 which states:

Approaching, following emergency vehicles

Stop on approach of vehicle with flashing lights or bell or siren sounding

159 (1) The driver of a vehicle, upon the approach of a police department vehicle with its bell or siren sounding or with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light or red and blue light, or upon the approach of an ambulance, fire department vehicle or public utility emergency vehicle with its bell or siren sounding or its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light, shall immediately bring such vehicle to a standstill,

(a) as near as is practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway and parallel therewith and clear of any intersection; or

(b) when on a roadway having more than two lanes for traffic and designated for the use of one-way traffic, as near as is practicable to the nearest curb or edge of the roadway and parallel therewith and clear of any intersection.

Slow down on approaching stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck

(2) Upon approaching an emergency vehicle with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light or red and blue light or a tow truck with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of amber light that is stopped on a highway, the driver of a vehicle travelling on the same side of the highway shall slow down and proceed with caution, having due regard for traffic on and the conditions of the highway and the weather, to ensure that the driver does not collide with the emergency vehicle or tow truck or endanger any person outside of the emergency vehicle or tow truck.

Same

(3) Upon approaching an emergency vehicle with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of red light or red and blue light or a tow truck with its lamp producing intermittent flashes of amber light that is stopped on a highway with two or more lanes of traffic on the same side of the highway as the side on which the emergency vehicle or tow truck is stopped, the driver of a vehicle travelling in the same lane that the emergency vehicle or tow truck is stopped in or in a lane that is adjacent to the emergency vehicle or tow truck, in addition to slowing down and proceeding with caution as required by subsection (2), shall move into another lane if the movement can be made safely.

Following fire department vehicle

(4) No driver of a vehicle shall follow in any lane of a roadway at a distance of less than 150 metres a fire department vehicle responding to an alarm.

Stop on approaching emergency vehicle or tow truck

(5) Nothing in subsection (2) or (3) prevents a driver from stopping his or her vehicle and not passing the stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck if stopping can be done safely and is not otherwise prohibited by law.

Offence

(6) Every person who contravenes subsection (1), (2), (3) or (4) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable,

(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000; and

(b) for each subsequent offence, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $4,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

Time limit for subsequent offence

(7) An offence referred to in subsection (6) committed more than five years after a previous conviction for an offence referred to in that subsection is not a subsequent offence for the purpose of clause (6) (b).

Driver’s licence suspension

(8) If a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (6), the court may make an order suspending the person’s driver’s licence for a period of not more than two years.

Appeal of suspension

(9) An appeal may be taken from an order under subsection (8) or a decision to not make the order in the same manner as from a conviction or an acquittal under subsection (6).

Stay of order on appeal

(10) Where an appeal is taken under subsection (9) from an order under subsection (8), the court being appealed to may direct that the order shall be stayed pending the final disposition of the appeal or until otherwise ordered by that court.

Definition

(11) In this section,

emergency vehicle” means,

(a) an ambulance, fire department vehicle, police department vehicle or public utility emergency vehicle,

(b) a ministry vehicle operated by an officer appointed for carrying out the provisions of this Act or the Public Vehicles Act, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment,

Note: On a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, clause (b) of the definition of “emergency vehicle” in subsection 159 (11) of the Act is amended by striking out “or the Public Vehicles Act”. (See: 2020, c. 34, Sched. 23, s. 7 (16))

(c) a vehicle while operated by a conservation officer, fishery officer, provincial park officer or mine rescue training officer, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment,

(d) a vehicle while operated by a provincial officer designated under the Environmental Protection Act, the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Pesticides Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 or the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, while the officer is in the course of his or her employment, or

(e) a vehicle as prescribed for the purposes of paragraph 5 of subsection 62 (15.1).

Driver Duties

Accordingly, and only in brief summary (review section 159 of the Highway Traffic Act as above for full details), when approaching, following, or being followed, by an emergency vehicle:

  • A driver must, when approached by an emergency vehicle, pull over and stop;
  • A driver must, when approaching an emergency vehicle, slow and yield as much bearth as possible to ensure against risk of collision with the emergency vehicles or risk of danger to persons involved in, or attending to, the emergency; and
  • A driver must, when following a fire truck, remain at a distance of at least 150 metres behind.
Penalties

As shown above, upon a conviction for an emergency vehicles violation contrary to section 159 of the Highway Traffic Act:

  • A driver may, for a first offence, be fined between $400 and $2,000 plus a victim surcharge and a court costs fee;
  • A driver may, for a subsequent offence within five (5) years, be fined between $1,000 and $4,000 as well as being sentenced to up to six (6) months in jail;
  • A driver may receive three (3) demerit points and subjected to cumulative points penalties;
  • A driver may be suspended for two (2) years; and
  • A driver may be subjected to increased insurance rates for the next three years.

Summary Comment

When a driver fails to slow and yield or stop as required for an emergency vehicle, the driver puts emergency responders as well as others at great risk; and accordingly, the penalties for these traffic violations may be significant.  If you are charged with an failing to property slow, yield, or stop, for an emergency vehicle, Hooshmand Paralegal may be available to help defend the charge.

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