Emergency Vehicles

Deciding on what to do when you hear an emergency vehicle approaching can be a dilemma. Do you stay where you are and potentially block the progress of an emergency vehicle? Or do you move into a position that may put you or other road users at risk?

Unfortunately, some drivers over-react to emergency service vehicles travelling on “blues and twos” (blue lights and two-tone horns). This is often because they don’t hear or see the emergency vehicle until it is very close, and then take drastic action to get out of the way.

Don’t panic and just brake. It’s natural to want to react. But instinctively putting your brakes on immediately in front of an emergency vehicle doesn’t help: it slows the progress of the emergency vehicle and jeopardises other road users.

Think about where you are on the road. You should deal with the problem in the same way that you deal with any other potentially hazardous driving situation. Observe and plan: what is the safest option available to you? You must sacrifice everything for safety, but never sacrifice safety for anything else - not even facilitating the progress of the emergency service vehicle.

Don’t cross red traffic lights or speed to get out of the way. The emergency driver has training and legal exemptions that you don’t have. Bus lanes and box junctions can be problems too, but let them resolve the law - not you.

If you are moving it may well be that you can continue at a reasonable pace and the emergency vehicle can follow you out of a pocket of congestion (such as a blocked one way system). In that scenario, attempting to pull over too soon, or slow down, might just cause a needless obstruction and so hamper the progress of the emergency vehicle.

Indicate your intentions clearly. Don’t pull in opposite other obstructions, such as centre bollards. If you are thinking about pulling over across a junction or outside a school or factory, you may be unwittingly preventing the emergency vehicle reaching its destination. And do think about where you are asking the emergency driver to overtake you - on the brow of a hill or a blind bend can be placing him or her in a very difficult position.

Get out of the way as soon as you can do so in safety.

4 October 2006 Staff

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