by Rob Paul
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Fire departments, tow trucks and emergency vehicles across Saskatchewan flashed their lights at the side of the road on Sunday, March 7 and Wednesday, March 10 as part of the Slow Down Move Over Awareness Event.
The event is held to raise awareness of rules around passing emergency vehicles on the side of the highway.
It started as a memorial for Courtney Schaefer, an Esterhazy tow truck operator who was killed in a collision on March 7, 2017.
A combined ‘Slow down and move over’ event and memorial was held in Esterhazy Sunday evening, and Rocanville, Moosomin, Redvers, and Wapella were among the communities that also held ‘Slow down and move over’ events this past week. ‘Slow down and move over’ is an event where emergency responders spread awareness about the importance of laws in place to protect tow truck operators, first responders, and highway workers.
Dallas Baillie of Baillie Brothers Towing said the event in Esterhazy served two purposes.
“We wanted to make the memorial and move over and slow down campaign the same event together, and so ourselves with the tow company, EMS, police and fire set up on the side of the highway west of town on the #22 highway.
“The idea was to make it basically a memorial to Courtney and to get our message across about the slow down and move over laws in Saskatchewan for anybody that is working on the side of the road, whether it’s emergency vehicles or construction workers or whatever. This will be the fourth year that we’ve done it. We started doing this the year that Courtney was killed.”
The first ‘slow down, move over’ event quickly spread across the province, and led to changes in provincial legislation, such as allowing blue flashing lights on tow trucks, not just the traditional amber lights.
Baillie said he was surprised how the first event in 2017 captured the public’s imagination.
“It took off all over, and I think that is just a testament to how important safety is to all of us that work on the side of the highway, whether it’s EMS, fire, tow trucks, tire change guys, whatever, because at the end of the day we all want to go home too.
“It’s unfortunate an accident had to happen to get this movement going. But because of it the movement is all over Western Canada now and we’re working on sending our message down into the Eastern provinces, but we’ve got a pretty good stronghold on Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for the slow down and move over laws.”
What does he want to get across to the public?
“We just want people to understand that if you see flashing lights on the side of the road, it really doesn’t matter what color of flashing lights, that means something is going on there, so slow down, move over, give room to whoever it is working on the side of the road because at the end of the day everybody wants to go home from their job and some jobs are more dangerous than others. We’re working for our families and a living, and we just want to go home safe.”
Baillie said he sees the slow down, move over movement as one positive coming out of the tragic accident at Esterhazy four years ago.
“It was a tragic event but it happened and it brought much more publicity to the fact that we need safety on our highways,” Baillie said.
“Today’s drivers are so much more distracted than they were even five years ago, with all of the technology in vehicles. They need to pay attention when they’re on the road. An accident like that was very tragic but again it started this movement and this movement is getting stronger every year.”
Baillie said he was happy that members of Courtney Schaefer’s family were planning to be at the event in Esterhazy.
“We stand on the side of the road, just to show respect to Courtney and his family, and Kim has been a great advocate for this,” he said. “Obviously she was impacted because of the tragedy in her life, but she’s been instrumental in helping us with this movement, and so every year we want to recognize her and her young daughter for allowing us to continue to go ahead with this movement, basically in Courtney’s name.”
Legislation one legacy of Schaefer’s death
One change that came about in response to Courtney Schaefer’s death is a change in provincial legislation.
In April 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced and passed legislation to improve safety for tow truck operators. The Traffic Safety Amendment Act permits blue light to be used in conjunction with amber lights on tow trucks.
The legislation was introduced and passed in the same day—which requires the unanimous support of the Legislature—after Schaefer was killed March 7, 2017 in a collision along the roadside near the Gerald area during blizzard conditions. Saskatchewan became the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a two-color lighting combination for tow trucks.
Since then, Slow Down Move Over Day has been introduced and has grown each year.
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator