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Yielding to Emergency Vehicles

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 13 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
Yielding Emergency Vehicles Police

It’s not unusual to be driving along, minding your own business when you’re suddenly confronted with the appearance of an emergency vehicle – lights flashing, siren blaring. So what do you do?

Of course, your first instinct is to get out of the way as quickly as possible to let the vehicle pass – and this is what most of us would try and do, almost without thinking about it. But is it the right thing to do?

There are many different types of emergency vehicles, not just usual three that we think of in relation to the emergency number ‘999’. ‘Blues and Twos’ – a colloquialism which refers to the blue flashing lights and two-tone sirens that the Emergency Services in the UK use when responding to an incident can be used for various emergency services including:

  • Police
  • Fire engine
  • Ambulance Services
  • Mines Rescue Service
  • Mountain Rescue Teams
  • Coastguard Service
  • Bomb Disposal Teams
  • National Blood Service
  • Vehicles transporting human tissue for transplant
  • Vehicles used to launch Life Boats

The Highway Code indicates that you should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police cars, and any other emergency vehicles, whenever you are on using the road. There may be sirens that flash red, blue or green, with flashing headlights and loud sirens indicating emergency services, or in the case of Incident Support vehicles or Highways Agency Traffic officers, flashing amber lights.

If you are approaching a roundabout and you see an emergency vehicle approaching, you should wait for it to reach, navigate and leave the roundabout before you continue.

The important thing to remember at this point is not to panic.

When you have identified the vehicle and its location, then you should look around you, try and consider the route that the vehicle will try to take, and then take appropriate action to let it pass, without contravening any traffic signs or road laws.

If you can pull over to the side of the road and safely stop, then this is what you should do, indicating your intention by signalling to the other road users around you. However you should avoid stopping on or near a hill, a bend, a section of the road that narrows or any other obviously dangerous area.

Most importantly, do not put yourself, passengers, other road users or pedestrians in danger - do not mount the kerb unless you absolutely have to, and even then, only if you are certain there are no pedestrians in the area.

Don't 'slam on' your brakes, or stop on a junction or roundabout as you may well end up in the middle of an accident yourself. Don’t imagine that you need to get out of the way no matter what.

Emergency vehicle drivers are specially trained and have exemptions to the law that you don't have, so you must not go through red lights or speed to allow them to pass. To do so is incredibly dangerous, and if caught, it will not help your defence that you broke the law to allow the emergency vehicle to pass.

The best thing you can do is to try and remove yourself calmly and carefully from the path of the emergency vehicle, taking care to note what other drivers around you are doing, and making sure that the path you are taking is a safe one.

So to summarise :

  • Be aware. If you are playing music in your car, make sure you could still hear sirens. Watch your rear mirror for signs of flashing blue lights
  • Don’t panic – staying calm will be ultimately more helpful to all involved than panicking
  • Pull to a safe spot quickly as long as it is safe for you to do so. Look out of cyclists, pedestrians, other road users and use your signals to show the other drivers what you intend to do.
  • Leave a gap for the vehicle to pass through
  • Check there are no more vehicles coming before you continue – there may be more than one
  • Wait until it is safe to do so, then indicate and rejoin your route.

Above all, remember that regardless of the presence of the emergency vehicle, you are ultimately responsible for your actions on the road – you should get out of the way when it is safe and appropriate for you to do so without contravening road laws, or endangering yourself or anyone around you.

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