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Why a government director says the new Traffic Safety Act is past due

Paul Arsenault, Director of Special Projects with the province's transportation department, will oversee getting the new Traffic Safety Act into the House of Assembly's fall session.
Paul Arsenault, Director of Special Projects with the province's transportation department, will oversee getting the new Traffic Safety Act into the House of Assembly's fall session. - Sara Ericsson

HALIFAX – A government director overseeing a major facelift for traffic safety in Nova Scotia is starting by replacing the current century-old act with a new one.

Paul Arsenault is the Director of Special Projects with the province’s transportation department and his chief responsibility is getting the new Traffic Safety Act into the House of Assembly’s fall session.

And it’s going to be a big job, he says.

“The discussion around cyclists and other traffic has evolved so much that the act needs to go, and a new one needs to be put in its place,” he said.

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The ‘most amended’ act: Arsenault

The original Motor Vehicles Act that was first enacted in 1908 has not been rewritten since 1932.

This, coupled with countless updates and edits over the years, has made it a document nearly impossible to navigate, said Arsenault.

“It’s 300 pages – it’s the most amended of any act our province has,” he said.

“The sections were not built together, contain different language, and there are unintended consequences because of it.”

In addition to being “cumbersome,” Arsenault said the act’s age means it no longer represents the current the rules of the road, meaning all types of traffic – whether a motorist or motorized wheelchair – are not properly protected.

This is why he said consultations with Bike Nova Scotia, MADD Canada and trucking groups were essential – to make sure input from different perspectives was considered.

 “This will paint a picture – it affects every Nova Scotian, different motorists and truck drivers since it’s a transportation vein everyone needs to use,” he said.

Keeping pace with a changing world

The new act will also seek to anticipate new ways of driving, like autonomous vehicles, said Arsenault.

“It’s new cars and new ways of interacting – they’re coming fast, and what does that mean for us?” Arsenault said.

“We need to consider these as we go along.”

The act will also put all technical details in its regulations section, meaning a streamlined process for accessing specific information, like how to register a vehicle, and a faster legislative process in making edits, according to Arsenault.

Regulations will be created by the Nova Scotia Legislature’s cabinet, and then approved by the House of Assembly. Arsenault said this process will ensure any changes made to the act happen quickly, and keep it current.

“Stakeholders become frustrated because we don’t act quick enough. This will go from one window per year to make changes to one every six months,” he said.

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