Alberta Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, Devin Dreeshen, made a stop in Beiseker on April 17 to announce a five-year extension to a provincial pilot program that allowed roadside workers and drivers to use blue lights in an attempt to improve roadside safety.
In 2022, the Alberta government set forth a trial run to give snowplows, tow trucks, and highway maintenance vehicles contracted by the government the option to use blue lights.
Dreeshen said feedback from the Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors influenced the Alberta government’s decision to further extend the use of blue lights until 2028.
“The original pilot projects were brought to increase visibility and improve safety of those working on our highways,” the minister said in a government press release. “We are extending these projects to make sure these important safety measures remain in place so those who work on our highways can go home safely to their families at the end of their shifts.”
Alberta has seen several highway incidents leading up to the implementation of blue lights. According to the Alberta government, there were 128 collisions that involved highway snowplows between March 2018 and March 2021.
An AMA report states that since December 2019, there have been roughly 39 near misses that involved tow trucks and passing vehicles. Also in that time, 14 serious roadside incidents took place.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper, who is also the representative for Beiseker, said the implementation of blue lights will help keep Alberta roads safe.
“I’m pleased to see this announcement from the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors. The extension of the blue light project will bring increased visibility and improve road safety for everyone in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills,” he said in the same press release.
The provincial government is still assessing the need to make legislative changes with the recent announcement of blue lights for roadside workers.
Residents of Alberta overwhelmingly showed support for the decision to implement blue lights, with 74 per cent of respondents suggesting they’d be in favour of the changes in a 2020 AMA survey
AMA President and CEO Michelle Chimko said blue lights for roadside workers have already improved the safety of Alberta highways. She said she was happy to see an additional five-year extension for the use of the lights.
“Adding blue lights on tow trucks has been a simple change with a profound benefit,” she said in the release. “It has improved visibility and safety on the roadside for our province’s essential tow operators and the Albertans they’re responding to. We’re grateful for this five-year extension, which provides ongoing certainty to Alberta’s tow operators as we work towards making this well-proven change a permanent reality.”
In addition to the extension for the use of blue lights, changes to the Traffic Safety Act will be implemented and come into effect on Sept. 1. The changes will require drivers to slow down to 60 km/h or less and move lanes when passing highway workers.
The Alberta government is working on a two-to-three-month public education campaign that will inform the public of the changes leading up to the fall.