A driver’s first instinct is to move their car out of the path of emergency vehicles when the sirens are roaring. But sometimes motorists can make the situation more difficult when they panic and try to make way. For this reason, we have made a guide on whats the best thing to do when you see those sirens coming up behind you.
Rule 219 of the Highway Code states that drivers should “look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or traffic officer and incident support vehicles using flashing amber lights”. When you spot an emergency vehicle approaching with its lights flashing you should consider the route it is likely to take, then take an appropriate action to let it pass. The most important thing to do is ensuring you stay alert and observant as this will help you to make the right decisions.
You can pull to the side of the road and stop but you must avoid doing this on a bend, narrow section of the road of before the brow of a hill, which could put the emergency vehicle in the path of oncoming traffic. Even when you are in the process of letting an emergency vehicle pass, it is important to continue obeying nearby traffic signs, because you will still be liable to prosecution if you break any motoring laws, even if you’re doing so to allow an emergency vehicle to pass by. Also, avoid mounting the kerb, braking harshly on the approach to a junction or roundabout. Using your driving awareness, avoid any action that could put pedestrians or other road users in danger.
Rules That Emergency Vehicles Have to Follow
Emergency vehicles still have to follow rules. With ambulances now expected to reach the most seriously ill patients in an average time of seven minutes, there is more pressure to reach destinations faster. But drivers of emergency vehicles have laws and rules they must follow, even in an emergency. These rules are in place so as not to force other road users into illegal manoeuvres. For example, emergency vehicles should turn their sirens off at junctions while traffic lights are on red, to avoid encouraging other drivers to jump a red light. Other rules that cannot be broken by emergency vehicles include ignoring ‘stop’ ‘give way and ‘no entry signs, driving through a one-way street in the wrong direction and ignoring level crossings.
However there are rules that emergency vehicles can break in case of an emergency:
- Driving over the speed limit
- Passing on the wrong side of the road
- Treat red traffic lights as a give way sign
- Drive on a motorways hard shoulder (even against the direction of traffic)
- They can use bus lanes to reduce the effect of congestion