Loud sirens and flashing blue lights will often send many motorists into a panic. Usually this is because they have not been taught how to respond to approaching emergency vehicles properly. This article will explain how to respond to emergency vehicles when driving so you can help to facilitate a safe and quick route for them to take. The key is to keep calm when you see or hear emergency vehicles approaching so you are in the right frame of mind to make a quick and safe decision.
When you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching, it is important to keep calm. If you have music on turn it off, as this will help your concentration as you plan your next move. Stressing yourself into a panic could lead you to making the wrong decisions and delaying the emergency vehicle from making progress.
Choose a location where you can pull over safely and indicate that you are going to do so. This will inform the emergency vehicle driver that you are aware of their presence making it clear you are getting out of there way. Only pull over when it is safe to do so. Avoid pulling onto kerbs, pavements and verges as you may put yourself or pedestrians at risk.
Even after the emergency vehicle has passed you, it is important to stay alert. There may be more emergency vehicles heading your way, so listen out for other sirens and keep in mind that you may need to pull over again.
Look for indicators
If you are approaching a junction or roundabout, check your mirrors to see if the emergency vehicle is indicating, so you know which direction they need to go in. This will help you plan your next move. Be aware that the driver behind you may not have the same view of the emergency vehicle as you, so do not brake suddenly.
If there is not a safe place to pull over, do not slow down as this will slow down the emergency vehicle. Instead keep driving and indicate that you intend to pull over when possible. You should never pull over on the brow of a hill or if you are approaching a bend. Simply keep driving at the speed limit (if it is safe to do so) and then indicate and pull over when you have a better view.
UK Government motorist advice specifically says “In slow-moving traffic. Motorists should leave enough space to be able to manoeuvre if an emergency vehicle needs to get past.”
Emergency vehicles on the motorway
Never overtake an emergency vehicle on a motorway or dual carriageway. This will prevent you from getting caught up in the accident it is attending. Make sure you give the blue light vehicle plenty of room and that you follow it at a safe distance.
Unless a uniformed police office directs you to do so, never go through a red light to facilitate an emergency vehicle.
The laws still apply even when emergency vehicles are present. Unless you are directed to do so by a uniformed police offer, you will be breaking the law and could be fined if you move into a bus lane or go through a red light to make way for an emergency vehicle.
If you are traveling on a solid white line road, the emergency vehicle will only be permitted to pass you when you have completely stopped. Keep driving at the speed limit (if it is safe to do so) and only pull over when you are out of the solid white line area. It is likely the emergency vehicle driver will turn the sirens off whilst you are on the solid white line road and back on when you reach the point where they can safely overtake.
Responding to emergency vehicles on the road is not something that you should worry about. As long as you keep your cool and behave in a safe, legal and predictable manner, you will be able to facilitate emergency vehicles in their mission to get to the emergency quickly and safely.