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Lee Romanov

Charla Jones/Charla Jones/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

How you approach a police car that has pulled over another vehicle could cost you up to $2,000 and three demerit points.

Ontario motorists are being fined big time if they don't approach a police car, ambulance, fire truck or any other emergency vehicle that is flashing either its red or blue lights, in a proper manner.

So, how do you correctly approach an emergency vehicle flashing either its red or blue lights on the highway, with two or more lanes available to you?

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A: Do not change lanes. Proceed with caution.

B: Move to the opposite lane as quickly and as safely as possible. Proceed with caution.

If you guessed A, you could get the Go to Jail card. The correct answer is B.

Even though you could argue that changing lanes might increase the risk of an accident occurring, it's more dangerous for the people on the side of the road to be hit by vehicles travelling in the lane closest to them. In fact, the driving force behind enacting this law was the death of a police officer.

Here's the penalty as outlined by the Ontario Traffic Act (Bill 191) if you do not move into the opposite lane of an emergency vehicle:

A person who contravenes these requirements will be guilty of an offence punishable, for a first offence, by a fine between $400 to $2,000 and for subsequent offences by a fine that ranges between $1,000 to $4,000, or to imprisonment for a maximum of six months, or both a fine and imprisonment. All convictions will result in the addition of three demerit points to the driver's record. The court that convicts a person of an offence may also suspend his or her driver's licence for a maximum of two years.

Although this traffic act was first adopted in Ontario in 2002, other provinces have fallen in line, including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Newfoundland and Labrador has not adopted this law, but that is primarily because the province lacks multiple-lane highways. New Brunswick has enacted a similar law, but it is only for tow-truck drivers.

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As far as your car insurance goes, this ticket will affect your rate for three years.

Approximately 50 per cent of all insurance companies increase their rates for one ticket. All companies increase their rates for two tickets. If you have three tickets or more, you may find yourself in the facility market for high-risk drivers, with high rates to match.

So the next time you're approaching an accident off to the side of the highway, and the lane beside the accident is wide open, don't drive along it to beat the traffic, because you won't beat the ticket.

Lee Romanov is the founder of and the author of Car Carma.

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