What to do when Emergency Vehicles Approach
If you had an emergency or a loved one was in peril you would want the emergency services to reach them as quickly as possible. In an emergency situation minutes can seem like an eternity to those waiting for help. Everyday police, fire and ambulance vehicles respond to urgent calls. Precious time lost getting there could mean the difference between life-and-death.
The biggest problem for emergency vehicles in reaching the scene of an emergency is motorists who panic at the sound or sight of the Blues and Two's (sirens and two-tone horns). Some drivers stop in the wrong place and others don't give way at all, especially during rush hour.
By following a few simple rules, you can help the emergency services get to the scene faster and safer:
- Emergency drivers are especially trained to drive in emergency situations. When you hear emergency vehicle sirens, don't panic, stay alert, and avoid being distracted. Keep the noise level down in your vehicle, continue to look and listen and be prepared for more than one emergency vehicle.
- Sometimes it can be difficult to work out where the siren noise is coming from. If you can't see the emergency vehicle, other driver's reactions such as slowing down or pulling over, may give you a clue to which direction the emergency vehicle is coming.
- When you do see the emergency vehicle's flashing lights in your rear view mirror. Scan the road front and sideways and try to anticipate the likely route the driver of the emergency vehicle will take. If you're on a long road with no turnings ahead, it's sensible to assume that the emergency driver wishes to drive straight on and get past you.
- You should not slam on your brakes or stop abruptly blocking the road or a junction. Look ahead for a safe area where you can pull over. You should use your vehicles indicators or hand signals to let other drivers and the emergency vehicle driver know your intent to pull over.
- Wait for the emergency vehicle to pass and watch for more than one emergency vehicle. Check to make sure the way is clear and signal before merging back into traffic.
- Never follow or try to outrun an emergency vehicle which is responding to an emergency call. If you do, you most likely will be breaking the speed limit and could also face charges of careless or dangerous driving.
- Never try to overtake a moving emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights unless directed to do so by a police officer or emergency personnel.
Emergency Vehicles and Driving situations
On a Motorway: The emergency services will use the hard shoulder if all lanes are blocked, so don't drive onto, or block the hard shoulder. Pull over to the inside lane if possible and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass. Watch out for more than one emergency vehicle. The emergency vehicle may be en-route to a road traffic accident, so prepare yourself in case you are approaching the incident. Check to make sure the way is clear and signal before merging back into the fast-flowing traffic lane.
Accident Scene: When passing the scene of an accident do not be distracted or slow down unnecessarily (for example if an accident is on the other side of a dual carriageway). This is called rubbernecking and could cause another accident if you slow down or take your eyes of the road to have a look.
One-Way Street: If you are travelling along a one-way street or a two-way road where the outside lane is congested? In this situation, it would be proper to continue at a reasonable speed letting the emergency vehicle follow you until it is clear and safe for you to pull over.
Brow of a hill or blind bend: Don't stop on the brow of a hill or blind bend. This action is likely to put the emergency vehicle driver in further jeopardy.
Hospitals - Fire Stations: Don't pull over at the entrances of these premises as you may hinder one of their emergency vehicles from leaving.
Stopped or Parked Emergency Vehicle: When you see a stopped emergency vehicle, slow down and continue with caution giving the emergency vehicle a wide berth. Watch out for obstacles, other drivers, and Rubbernecker's.
At Road Junctions: All approaching vehicles from all directions must give way to an emergency vehicle until it passes through the junction. Never block the junction as this could impede the emergency vehicle.
At Traffic Lights: all approaching vehicles from all directions must give way to an emergency vehicle until it passes through the traffic lights.
Red Traffic Lights: If you are stopped at red traffic lights, with an emergency vehicle behind who wants to get past and his way is blocked by your vehicle. You cannot legally advance through the red traffic stop light. Legally you should wait until the lights turn green, continue forward and pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, letting the emergency vehicle pass you.
Box Junctions: If you are stopped at a box junction, with an emergency vehicle behind who wants to get past and his way is blocked by your vehicle. You cannot legally enter the box junction until it is your turn.
Bus Lanes: The same rules apply, if you enter a bus lane to let an emergency vehicle past, you are liable to a fixed penalty fine.
Every day drivers face the dilemma of breaking the rules to help expedite the emergency vehicle. We can debate the rights and wrongs of these situations; But the fact is, the only person with the proper training and legal exemptions to break the rules, is the emergency driver.
GEM Road Safety Charity have produced a really useful video that illustrates what to do when an emergency vehicle approaches. Visit GEM at http://www.bluelightaware.org.uk
What to do when Emergency Vehicles Approach
Tips and Advice - Article - No70 RoadDriver 2010
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