Alix Digout – August 2018
As a personal injury lawyer, the majority of my practice deals with individuals who have been injured in motor vehicle collisions. As a result, I review Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act almost daily. The Motor Vehicle Act was adopted in the early 1900s, during a time when it was more common for livestock to cause traffic jams than motor vehicles. In a world full of taxis and Ubers (although not yet in available in HRM), the Motor Vehicle Act still defines more primitive modes of getting downtown on a Saturday night, such as a “hack”: a horse-drawn vehicle used to transport passengers for compensation. During the early 1900s, cyclists were not common and there was no such thing as texting or stunting. While the Motor Vehicle Act has been amended previously, it has not been rewritten since the 1920s. It is evident the Motor Vehicle Act was written before the wide use of signal lights, as Section 114(1) requires motorists to give an audible signal to other motorists before attempting to pass or overtake. As you can imagine, honking every time we passed a vehicle in present day would cause confusion and serve as a distraction for other motorists.
Undoubtedly, the Motor Vehicle Act requires updates to reflect the modern-day realities of roadways and road users. In response, the Nova Scotia Government intends to introduce the Traffic Safety Act to replace the outdated Motor Vehicle Act.
The government has indicated the Traffic Safety Act (the “New Act”) will address deficiencies in the current legislation in relation to distracted driving, cyclists and speed limits. The New Act will feature flexible language, so the government can update it in the future to respond to changes in how we use the roads. Nova Scotians were asked to give their say during the development of the New Act by way of an open call for feedback (the deadline for entries being June 8, 2018).
The New Act will also govern and regulate the registration and identification of motor vehicles, the use of provincial highways and roads, driver’s licenses, the registration and inspection of vehicles, updated traffic laws and equipment standards. It is anticipated the New Act will be put before the Legislature in fall 2018. However, it will likely take a few years before it is in full effect.
The proposed updates have been welcomed by cyclists who believe the Motor Vehicle Act does not afford enough protection or fully define their status as road users. Despite this ambiguity, cyclists are required to abide by the same road rules and share the same responsibilities as motorists. It is not known yet, what, if any changes the New Act will incorporate for cyclists but I leave you with five safety tips to ensure cyclists and motorists arrive at their intended destinations safely:
- Move Over! Do not crowd or block designated bike lanes. For roadways without a marked bike lane, leave at least a one metre gap between you and the cyclist when passing.
- As a cyclist, do not weave in an out of traffic. Driving in a straight line allows you to be seen by motorists at all times. Also make sure to stick to the right-hand side of the road and follow the flow of traffic.
- After parking your vehicle along the roadside, look out for approaching cyclists before you open your car door.
- Wear reflective clothing and/or use a headlight when driving your bicycle at night to ensure you are seen by other road users.
- Any attempts to pass or turn in front of cyclists should be done safely. If possible, slow down to assess the speed of an oncoming cyclist – you may have less time than you think to execute the turn safely!