posted 4 years ago

Emergency Vehicles: What Drivers Need To Do

Your responsibility towards police, fire and ambulance crews

Precious seconds can mean the difference between life and death when an emergency vehicle is attempting to reach a person in distress.

Unfortunately, many drivers have no idea what they need to do when an emergency vehicle is attempting to pass them in a busy road.

Common sense dictates that drivers should get out of the way as quickly and calmly as possible, but many drivers simply get in the way or panic.

Some have even resorted to dangerous attempts to ensure that they maintain an advantage on the road.

In June 2014, a driver was banned from driving for 30 months after admitting dangerous driving following an incident in which he first prevented an ambulance from passing then overtook it.

Speaking after the case, a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service told the Eastern Daily Press: “We want everyone to stay safe whilst using the roads so when encountering blue lights and sirens we ask that drivers simply find a safe place, and pull-in to the left as soon as possible.

“Drivers just need to show the consideration they would for any other road user and this incident serves as a reminder to us all.”

The Highway Code sheds some light on the issue.

Rule 219 of the Highway Code provides the following advice for drivers in relation to Emergency and Incident Support vehicles:

       You 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 Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights.

W When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs.

If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop, but try to avoid stopping before the brow of a hill, a bend or narrow section of road.

Do not endanger yourself, other road users or pedestrians and avoid mounting the kerb.

Do not brake harshly on approach to a junction or roundabout, as a following vehicle may not have the same view as you.

Despite the sirens and blue flashing lights, many motorists still do not get out of the way, leading to strong words from the College of Paramedics.

Speaking to the BBC, Executive officer Martin Berry said many drivers had become desensitised to emergency vehicles, with paramedics reporting that some drivers have tailgated them and followed them through parting traffic, and jumped red lights. 

However, there have been occasions in which drivers have been penalised for entering bus lanes, or triggering traffic light enforcement cameras, while moving out of the way for an emergency vehicles.

A fine can often be levied, but drivers do have the option to appeal.

Peter Rodger, head of driving standards at Institute of Advanced Motorists, says drivers should make their own decision about the appropriate thing to do, even if it could mean getting on the wrong side of the law.

He said: "The standard advice is that you can carry on and comply with the law, and let the emergency vehicle work around you, using whatever exemptions it has available to it.

“It leaves people with a quandary, and they have to make their own decision.”

The road safety charity GEM Motoring Assist Road Safety Charity produced a video which should help motorists understand the best course of action.

However, common sense and courtesy would appear to be the key to the situation, always keeping in mind the fact that your actions on the road could be the difference between life and death for someone who needs urgent help.