‘Slow down, move over’ awareness events on Sunday in Esterhazy, and province-wide on Wednesday

Emergency services will be flashing lights at the side of the road; Event began in honor of Courtney Schaefer, an Esterhazy tow truck operator killed in a collision March 7, 2017

March 6, 2021, 1:33 pm
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


Fire departments, emergency services vehicles, and tow trucks in the local area and across Saskatchewan will be flashing their lights at the side of the road this Sunday in Esterhazy, and Wednesday province-wide as part of the Slow Down Move Over Awareness Event.

The event is held to raise awareness of rules around passing emergency vehicles on the side of the highway.

It started as a memorial for Courtney Schaefer, an Esterhazy tow truck operator who was killed in a collision on March 7, 2017.

A combined ‘Slow down and move over’ event and memorial will be held in Esterhazy Sunday evening between 7-8 pm, and Rocanville and Moosomin are among the communities that are planning ‘Slow down and move over’ events for 7 pm Wednesday.

‘Slow down and move over’ is an event where emergency responders spread awareness about the importance of laws in place to protect tow truck operators, first responders, and highway workers.

Remembering Courtney
Dallas Baillie of Baillie Brothers Towing said the event in Esterhazy on Sunday will serve two purposes.

“We want to make the memorial and move over and slow down campaign the same event together, and so ourselves with the tow company, EMS, police and fire are going to be set up on the side of the highway west of town on the #22 highway.

“The idea was to make it basically a memorial to Courtney and to get our message across about the slow down and move over laws in Saskatchewan for anybody that is working on the side of the road, whether it’s emergency vehicles or construction workers or whatever. This will be the fourth year that we’ve done it. We started doing this the year that Courtney was killed.”

The first ‘slow down, move over’ event quickly spread across the province, and led to changes in provincial legislation, such as allowing blue flashing lights on tow trucks, not just the traditional amber lights.

Baillie said he was surprised how the first event in 2017 captured the public’s imagination.

“It took off all over, and I think that is just a testament to how important safety is to all of us that work on the side of the highway, whether it’s EMS, fire, tow trucks, tire change guys, whatever, because at the end of the day we all want to go home too.

“It’s a big movement. I know this year, just because of the date, other companies in Saskatchewan wanted to do it on the 10th. So, province-wide we’re doing a slow down and move over campaign on the Wednesday night, the 10th.

“In Esterhazy, we’re sticking with the seventh for the memorial one, and Courtney’s wife and daughter are going to be attending the event too.

“It’ll be a good time to say our prayers and remember Courtney.

“It’s unfortunate an accident had to happen to get this movement going. But because of it the movement is all over Western Canada now and we’re working on sending our message down into the Eastern provinces, but we’ve got a pretty good stronghold on Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for the slow down and move over laws.”

What does he want to get across to the public?

“We just want people to understand that if you see flashing lights on the side of the road, it really doesn’t matter what color of flashing lights, that means something is going on there, so slow down, move over, give room to whoever it is working on the side of the road because at the end of the day everybody wants to go home from their job and some jobs are more dangerous than others. We’re working for our families and a living, and we just want to go home safe.”

Baillie said he sees the slow down, move over movement as one positive coming out of the tragic accident at Esterhazy four years ago.

“It was a tragic event but it happened and it brought much more publicity to the fact that we need safety on our highways,” Baillie said.

“Today’s drivers are so much more distracted than they were even five years ago, with all of the technology in vehicles. They need to pay attention when they’re on the road. An accident like that was very tragic but again it started this movement and this movement is getting stronger every year.”

Baillie said he is happy that members of Courtney Schaefer’s family are planning to be at the event in Esterhazy.

“We stand on the side of the road, just to show respect to Courtney and his family, and Kim has been a great advocate for this,” he said. “Obviously she was impacted because of the tragedy in her life, but she’s been instrumental in helping us with this movement, and so every year we want to recognize her and her young daughter for allowing us to continue to go ahead with this movement, basically in Courtney’s name.”

Moosomin event at weigh scales
The Moosomin Fire Department and other emergency services are planning to hold a Slow Down and Move Over event at the weigh scales on the Trans-Canada Highway at 7 pm Wednesday.

Moosomin Fire Chief Rob Hanson said the fire department is hoping to make more people aware of the importance of slowing down and moving over when they see any emergency responders at the side of the road.

“It’s an awareness thing,” he said. “We’ve supported it since it started four years ago, just to make everyone aware to slow down and pull over when they see flashing lights.

“Most people are very good about it, but sometimes there are issues. A few people either don’t realize it or don’t respect it. We do have our hands full when we’re out at an accident scene on the highway trying to get people to slow down.

“Basically it’s just to protect the EMS people, the ambulance, the tow truck drivers, us with the fire department and the RCMP. People need to realize they have to slow down to 60 km/h and pull over.”

Rocanville Fire Department planning event
In Rocanville, on Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m., the fire department will be doing a cruise around town to remind people of the importance of slowing down and moving over when any emergency vehicles are at work on the side of the highway.

Legislation one legacy of Courtney Shaefer’s death
One change that came about in response to Courtney Shaefer’s death is a change in provincial legislation.

In April 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced and passed legislation to improve safety for tow truck operators. The Traffic Safety Amendment Act permits blue light to be used in conjunction with amber lights on tow trucks.

The legislation was introduced and passed in the same day—which requires the unanimous support of the Legislature—after Schaefer was killed March 7, 2017 in a collision along the roadside near the Gerald area during blizzard conditions. Saskatchewan became the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a two-color lighting combination for tow trucks.

Since then, Slow Down Move Over Day has been introduced and has grown each year.