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Reacting to an emergency vehicle on the road

How to react to emergency vehicles

Image of 2 emergency vehicles, police bike and fire engine

If an emergency vehicle comes up behind you, do you know what to do? Some motorists panic and swerve out of the way, while others are slow to react. But, the emergency services vehicle is just trying to get to the location of the emergency. Therefore, it’s important that you are always prepared to use common sense and act quickly in case they are close by.

Always be ready and alert

If an emergency vehicle is heading in your direction, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the Highway Code says that you should always be actively looking and listening out for them, every time you’re out driving. But many drivers are slow to react, panic or simply don’t know what to do to help an emergency vehicle when they see it with its siren and lights on. This could result in the driver unintentionally putting themselves and their passengers in danger, risk damaging their car and even breaking the law.

Give the emergency vehicle plenty of space

If an emergency vehicle has come to a stop ahead of you, slow down and ensure you give the vehicle a good amount of space as you pass by.

Be ready to pull over

If you hear sirens but don’t know where the emergency vehicle is, check to see where there is space to move aside if it does head your way. If an emergency vehicle comes up behind you, be ready to pull over and stop where you can safely. Don’t stop in the centre of the road or block junctions and look to see where it can pass you. Don’t forget to use your indicators to let the emergency vehicle driver and others know your intentions.

Think about where you are stopping

fire engine on its way to an emergency call out

If you are having to pull over, try not to stop on bends, verges, pavements and kerbs, as this can put pedestrians at risk and the emergency vehicle may not be able to see any potential hazards.

Use the mirrors

There might be another emergency vehicle heading in your direction, so before you merge back into the traffic, check your blind spot and mirrors to make sure it’s safe and nothing else is coming.

Stay calm

If you cannot pull over because there’s too much traffic and no room to move over, or you are driving along a narrow or one-way road, keep on driving. Slowing down will only force the emergency vehicle to have to squeeze past you. Stay calm and don’t rush. When it’s safe and there’s adequate space, you can then allow the emergency vehicle to pass you.

Don’t break the law

You must never increase your speed to try to get ahead of an emergency vehicle, pull into a bus lane or drive through a red traffic light. Doing so is against the law, regardless of the circumstances.

Along with these tips, you can also check out a video about dealing with emergency vehicles on the road.

And remember….

Blue lights could also be an emergency vehicle signalling that they want you to stop for them. It’s therefore important that you are alert and aware of what’s going on around you. But there’s no need to panic. Emergency vehicle drivers receive extensive training and their priority is to keep other road users safe while heading to the emergency scene. But, above all, remember that by using common sense and allowing emergency vehicles to pass quickly and safely, you could be helping to save someone’s life.