Q&A - Stopping for Emergency Vehicles

Q&A ImageQUESTION: When driving I noticed a police car with flashing light following the vehicle that was following me. I pulled over - the car behind me went by followed by the police vehicle - who put on his siren on a little ways up the street. Was I right by pulling over for flashing lights. My husband says I should have kept driving until the police used the siren.... who is right?

ANSWER: When I was a police officer and wanted to pull a vehicle over when it was not an emergency, I would turn on the emergency lights on the roof of my police vehicle. At this point I was essentially saying to the other driver "pick a safe spot and pull over, I want to talk to you." If they didn't stop I would add the wig-wag headlights and finally the siren. If they didn't pull over after the siren came on it was a ticket for the original offence and the failing to yield for an emergency vehicle.

There are two sections in the Motor Vehicle Act that deal with emergency vehicles. The first is for all emergency vehicles and requires them to use both a siren and lights together before drivers must pull over.

Approach of emergency vehicle

177 On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle giving an audible signal by a bell, siren or exhaust whistle, and showing a visible flashing red light, except when otherwise directed by a peace officer, a driver must yield the right of way, and immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.

The second only applies to police vehicles or officers. The flashing emergency lights would be considered a signal. There is some leeway here in choosing where to stop as it mentions making a safe stop. The first instance simply requires an immediate stop.

Failing to stop and state name

73 (1) A peace officer may require the driver of a motor vehicle to stop and the driver of a motor vehicle, when signalled or requested to stop by a peace officer who is readily identifiable as a peace officer, must immediately come to a safe stop.

There are some situations where emergency vehicles are allowed to disobey the normal rules of the road without using lights or siren. If lights only are used, it may be an attempt to gain right of way without alerting those that are involved in what the response is for.