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You can now be fined for overtaking a snowplow on Ontario highways

Highway Traffic Act Photo by Shutterstock/Benoit Daoust

Passing a slow-moving snowplow will cost you now that the Ontario government has passed its newest bill.

The Less Red Tape, Stronger Economy Act 2023 bill, introduced by the provincial government on April 3, includes 42 initiatives that, if passed, are intended to improve public services, grow businesses, and save people time.

One of the proposed initiatives has now been made official: an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act. It’s now considered an offence to overtake working snowplows in a diagonal formation on a multi-lane highway with a posted speed limit of 80 km/h or higher. The fine for passing is between $150 and $1,000.

“The proposed amendments are intended to reduce unsafe passing maneuvers and collisions occurring by motorists overtaking snowplows performing winter maintenance activities on these roadways. Fewer collisions with snowplows will result in improved safety for snowplow operators and the travelling public, fewer snowplows being placed out of service, and less impact on snow clearing activities on these highways,” the province said in a previous statement.

Drivers are only allowed to pass the snowplow if a full lane is available to complete the maneuver. This means that if plows are working in each lane of the highway, you can’t maneuver into an oncoming lane to get around them. A lane isn’t considered fully available unless it’s entirely clear of the plow, and this includes plow attachments or blades. In fact, the government says that passing a working snowplow even if a lane is available can be dangerous.

Visibility around the snowplow is often reduced due to blowing snow and the snow ridge created by the plow. And while most plows discharge snow to the right, there are some vehicles that discharge to the left, blocking passing lanes. Plus, it’s likely the road ahead hasn’t been cleared.

Instead, it’s recommended that you wait until plows have cleared your route before hitting the road. But if you do get stuck behind one, stay approximately 10 car lengths back and be patient.  The plow may pull over and let you pass.

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