Everyone has been there, you’re driving along jamming to your music then suddenly you hear sirens. What do you do? Panic is not the answer. Let’s go over some ways to safely share the road with ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars.
The main thing to remember: right of way
This is, hopefully, obvious but emergency vehicles trump all others when it comes to right-of-way.
When the siren approaches from behind you
The first thing to do is to slow down and check what is going on in traffic around you. Avoid the natural response to automatically pull over, there could be another vehicle, cyclist, or a pedestrian. Once you spot a clear path to the side of the road, put on your blinker and make your way over to the side. Then make sure the coast is completely clear before trying to get back into traffic.
When the siren approaches from the front
This can be a tricky situation, but you still want to pull over to the side of the road and put your hazards on. Another reason to pull over is that emergency vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road if the traffic is too dense. This could free up your lane, so they don’t have to take on the extra risk.
Approaching a stopped emergency vehicle: the “move over” law
This is where emergency responders are most at risk. States have different laws on how to drive around emergency vehicles that are stopped with lights flashing. The gist is basically the same, move over and get away from the emergency personnel. When it’s safe to move over, slow down and pass with a lot of caution.
When following an emergency vehicle with flashing lights you should typically stay about 300-500 feet behind it. It is always dangerous to tailgate an emergency vehicle.
An emergency responder’s job is no where near easy. Understanding how to share the road with police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances helps everyone stay safe on the road.