Do you know how to respond if you are driving and an emergency vehicle is approaching? Emergency vehicles with active lights and/or sirens have the right-of-way and drivers must yield to them.
The California vehicle code states you must yield the right-of-way to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed.
Never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then, drive to the right as soon as it is safe and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loudspeaker to talk to drivers blocking their path.
You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal given by a traffic or peace officer, or a firefighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws. It is against the law to follow within 300 feet behind any fire engine, police vehicle, ambulance, or other emergency vehicles with a siren or flashing lights (CVC §21706). If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, collision, or other disasters, you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, firefighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel.
Here are some tips on how to handle the approach of an emergency vehicle:
- Remain calm and don’t panic
- Move your vehicle to the right, if at all possible. Then, come to a complete stop, and wait.
- Stay put at an intersection stop sign or traffic light, if you cannot pull to the right. Do not try to go through the intersection.
- Pull over to the nearest side of the road if you are on a one-way road or divided highway – but before you do, make sure the shoulder is safe.
- Before pulling back into traffic, ensure another emergency vehicle isn’t coming along after the first one.
- Don’t stop in the middle of an intersection.
- Don’t pull to the left in the center yellow lane or left turn lane.
- Don’t speed up to get through a green light or turn before an emergency vehicle gets there.
Always keep an eye out for emergency vehicles, you may not be able to hear the sirens so always check surrounding traffic.
Remember – Pull to the Right for sirens and lights!