Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris is one step closer to getting roundabout-specific driving laws on the books in Ontario.
His private member’s bill, the Safe Roundabouts Act, passed through the second reading phase at Queen’s Park last week and now heads to committee for review.
The bill calls for an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, the set of laws which govern driving in the province, by defining roundabouts and also calls for the Minister of Transportation to create regulations based on mandated studies and public consultations on the issue.
“This is clearly an important local road safety matter,” Harris said. “I think it was only a day or two after I was first elected back in 2011, one of the first constituent concerns that I had was when a young girl was hit by a bus on the Block Line and Home Watson roundabout (in Kitchener). And so we got digging a bit deeper and noticed that nowhere in the Highway Traffic Act were roundabouts even mentioned.”
Bill 65 passed through its second reading March 5 with a vote of 38-4.
With more than 40 roundabouts in the Waterloo Region, this was a pressing issue, Harris said.
“I am a big supporter of roundabouts. I like roundabouts,” he said. “This isn’t a debate or discussion on should we have roundabouts or not, because they are here to stay. This is about how we can modernize our laws to account for roundabouts throughout Ontario. We are a pioneer here in the region and we have had some growing pains.”
While there have been more accidents in roundabouts in the region than at traditional intersections, the severity of the incidents are much lower, Harris said.
With explicit rules on the books, collisions could drop even lower, he added.
And now, Waterloo Regional Police chief Bryan Larkin is onboard.
“I have had the support of our local police chief, who is going to be making this a priority at the Ontario police chiefs traffic committee, where they have had difficult enforcing the HTA within roundabouts.”
Larkin agreed, stating, “The sheer fact that the definition of a roundabout is not embedded in the Highway Traffic Act, for us, it creates some confusion as we move through the judicial process. There’s no hard and fast rules of the road there, but I think it (the Safe Roundabouts Act) will bring some clarity to the rules. I think long term it will provide for a safer road network.”
After Bill 65 goes through the general governance committee it will return to the legislature for a third reading.