Highway Traffic Act changes to get Ontario moving

By MPP Toby Barrett

New legislation will help municipalities get a lot tougher with drivers who blow by school buses. This spring, MPPs have been debating the Getting Ontario Moving Act—legislation proposed to amend the Highway Traffic Act.

The plan is to introduce a new administrative monetary penalty framework for improperly passing a school bus. The measure will better enable municipalities to support school bus cameras, while increasing safety for school children. The fines collected by municipalities from the passing of school buses can be used to work with the school bus operators to install cameras on their buses.

With respect to school bus cameras, kudos to MPP Rick Nicholls, Chatham-Kent-Leamington, and his private members bill calling for cameras.

Bill 107, if passed will better protect maintenance and construction workers, tow truck operators and recovery workers from dangerous drivers. Recovery workers are basically anybody working along the highways, whether it be EMS, fire, police, or a mechanic working on a car.

The new law would also amend the vehicle weights and dimensions regulation to allow for the use of advanced technology like wide-based single tires—with the benefits of reduced fuel consumption, lower emissions, and improved industry productivity.

It will make life easier and expand consumer choice by exempting people with personal-use pickups from burdensome annual inspections, by updating requirements for off-road vehicles, and by allowing high handlebars on motorcycles.

We are proposing to allow single-occupant motorcycles to use high-occupancy lanes to separate them from general traffic and increase safety for the 643,645 motorcyclists in Ontario. This would follow the experience of other jurisdictions and respond to industry and stakeholder requests.

Vehicles driving slowly in the left lane are a hazard and that’s why this legislation, if passed, would increase penalties for this behavior.

In addition, we’re proposing a zero blood alcohol/drug concentration for driving instructors. This legislation will provide that extra bit of safety—knowing that driving instructors work day in and day out to ensure new drivers learn how to drive properly.

Finally, we will find efficiencies and streamline the way we do business by amending the Highway Traffic Act to make sure it matches the Criminal Code of Canada. These changes would allow temporary alterations to special-use lanes within designated construction zones. This would help keep traffic moving, allow construction and maintenance activities to occur more efficiently, and eliminate the need for a regulatory amendment every time a special-use lane needs to be altered for construction or maintenance.  We’re allowing the local MTO regional offices to make sure these lane changes can occur expeditiously.

We are also going to be working to align with federal measures by introducing legislation that deals with people who are breaking the law while under the influence of cannabis. The federal government has designated a certain time period to add these new charges into our Ontario laws.

It will be an offence for defacing or removing traffic signs that support both road safety and our enforcement partners.  This will be giving law enforcement agencies options on how to proceed with regard to those who vandalize, deface, or remove traffic signs.

Our goal—to improve the safety of Ontarians; to reduce the unnecessary, outdated, inefficient regulations on businesses and individuals; and to help open up Ontario for business.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk