What to Do When You See an Emergency Vehicle

Emergency Vehicle Rules You Should obey

If you notice an emergency car while driving, you should know how to safely pull over to offer it the right of way.

Sirens, lights, vehicles around you varying speed and direction to get out of the way; every driver has observed his or her fair share of emergency cars. Emergency cars include ambulances, fire engines and trucks, police vehicles, and privately-owned cars built for firefighters and other life support agencies. In the situation of an emergency, these cars sound their sirens and flash their lights to alert passerby to create room. Emergency cars need to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. They are permitted to bypass red lights, drive along shoulders and in the opposite direction, speed, and more to get to their destination in the shortest possible time. All this must be achieved while maneuvering through traffic safely.

To assist emergency car drivers do their job, the general driving public must react appropriately when they observe or hear one. Though specific laws may differ from states, the acronym “SIREN” is beneficial to know what to do in most cases:

Stay Alert. ** While this has general driving application, staying alert implies keeping your eyes on the road and noise level within the vehicle low enough to hear any potential sirens. If you do hear sirens or observe an emergency car, crack a window for better hearing and watch out for any pedestrians.

 **Investigate.Direct all your mirrors to properly gauge the emergency car’s approaching speed and know on where and when to pull over. 

React. Make use of your best judgment to react quickly and calmly when pulling over. Check in all directions before doing so and ensure to use your turn signal. Do not slam on your brakes or pull over without signaling other drivers.

Enter. After the car has passed, re-enter the road after looking in all directions, signaling, and gradually merging into traffic.

 Never. Never stop where there is not enough room to pull off the road safely. Additionally, do not follow an emergency car to go fast or try to outrun one.

The above rules offer a basic outline of what’s required of you as a driver. You should know what to do if you observe an emergency car approaching behind you, in front of you, at an intersection, and when it has stopped. Be weary of what to do in these 4 stated situations:

1. Emergency Cars Approaching from Behind

You should slow down safely and inspect your surroundings when you become conscious of an emergency car approaching from behind you. Do not pull over immediately, even though that may be your initial reaction. You need to inspect for any pedestrians, cyclists, or other vehicle beforehand. Use your blinker to pull over immediately you find a clear path to the road’s shoulder. Do not re enter traffic until there is room. Again, check for a space between vehicles and use your turn signal. Always remember SIREN.

2. Emergency Cars Approaching in Front

Even when an emergency car is coming from the oncoming lane, you typically still want to pull to the side of the road. Except there’s a barrier between your direction and the oncoming traffic, an emergency car may drive on the wrong side off the road to pass around dense traffic. Pulling over empties your lane to emergency responders. Plus, you do not want an emergency car approaching from the front in the same lane as you for both your and the other driver’s safety.

Pull over with the same caution as you would with an emergency car coming toward you from behind.

3. Emergency Vehicle Approaching While at an Intersection

Should you see an emergency vehicle near an intersection, your action depends on whether you are stopped or in motion. If you are stopped, and there is room to move over to the right side of the road, do so when safe. Otherwise, stay put. Even if your traffic light turns green, or it’s your turn to go at a stop sign, wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. They may be crossing in front of you, or use a center yellow lane (or “deadman’s lane”) to get around traffic.

If it is that you are crossing an intersection when the emergency car approaches from any direction, do not stop or pick up speed. Never stop in the middle of an intersection; continue through it, then you safely pull over to the side of the road. Don’t drive faster to pass through a green light or turn ahead of an emergency car, or race after one to make the light.

4. Emergency Car Stopped on Road

A stopped emergency car usually continues flashing lights and is at the scene of an accident. Slow down and move over a lane if there is space. Some states need drivers to slow down to up to 20 mph below the speed limit. In general, lower your speed enough for safe pulling over. Move with caution if traffic or other obstacles stop you from shifting lanes. Your main concern is to provide the emergency car and its operators space to do their work.

What To Do When You Observe an Emergency Car

When you observed a police car, firetruck, ambulance, or other emergency car coming from any direction, be on high alert and plan your next move. In addition to SIREN and the listed scenarios bear these tips in mind:

Keep approximately 300-500 feet behind an emergency car; don’t follow after one. Use your hazard lights while pulled to the side of the road to signal other drivers. Inspect for any additional emergency car approaching before pulling back onto the road. You may have to stay put for several to pass. Emergency cars are equipped to assist a variety of crises. Allowing them get to their destinations as efficiently as possible could save a life.