Comment - How to deal with the OPP - know your rights

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

April 1, 2009

After last weekend one might wonder where the heads of our provincial police are. Although, I guess people around here already know the answer to that question.

Seventy-one fines handed out over the weekend to people who didn't "move to left" or yield for emergency vehicles that were entrapping motorists on local roads should only tell us one thing - that many people are uneducated when it comes to this legislation.

But apparently the OPP's approach to making people aware of it is to undertake a traffic blitz and hand out hefty fines to people in the middle of a recession. More of this "awareness" aimed at improving safety is yet to come, according to a press release.

The safety of our emergency service workers cannot be understated, but people, I'm sure, would be more accepting of fine after a concerted effort to educate them first, instead of being lambasted with a $500 fine and three demerit points, as some of our readers can attest to.

In the past, police along with other community organizations have attempted to educate people about child seat legislation, but I for one don't recall any such attempt to educate people about this "move to the left" law. The law was enacted in 2003, so it's quite conceivable that many older drivers are unaware of it. And not everyone reads newspapers.

The OPP are playing with people's lives by taking such a heavy handed approach to awareness. A first offence warrants a fine of $400 to $2,000, plus three demerit points upon conviction and the possible suspension of a driver's licence for up to two years. A subsequent offence within five years can result in a fine of $1,000 to $4,000, possible jail time of up to six months and the possible suspension of a driver's licence for up to two years.

According to the OPP, motorists who see an emergency vehicle parked on the shoulder with lights flashing in the same direction of traffic should move to the left lane, when possible, or slow down and proceed with caution if there's only a single lane.

Come to think of it though, in Haldimand there are few locations with two lanes of traffic. Coming to mind right now, there's only one - on Highway 6 north - which makes no sense of the fact that the OPP has had the phrase "move to the left" posted on its billboard outside the Haldimand detachment off Highway 54 in Cayuga for the past few months, visible from a single lane highway. I sincerely hope this hasn't caused any additional safety concerns as such uneducated people try to avoid emergency vehicle by going head on into oncoming traffic.

And one question for the OPP is still outstanding: What should we do if natives are parading down the middle of a provincial highway without their flashing lights on?

Most people would need a permit to do something like that such as the ones service clubs are required to get before Canada Day and Santa Claus parades. That wasn't the case on Feb. 28 when about 10-12 aboriginals paraded by Dave Brown's home on Argyle Street South in Caledonia carrying unity and Mohawk warrior flags, blocking traffic in both directions. Some cars jerked around the group rather dangerously. You can ask Brown to view his home move as a matter of fact. I'm sure he'd oblige.

According to him, the officers who had coffee with him prior to this procession just sat in the church parking lot next to Douglas Creek Estates and watched. Then, according to members of a community liaison group, an OPP staff sergeant told them that police had no idea that there was going to be a parade that morning.

The Keystone capers continue.