Yielding to an Emergency Vehicle

ambulance“Well, I thought that you were trying to catch that car ahead of me.” This is a common reply when drivers are stopped to explain why they didn’t pull over for the police vehicle trying to catch an obvious violator. The vehicle ahead of these drivers might be the object of the pursuit, but how is that driver to know?

The driver doesn’t need to know. On the approach or an emergency vehicle, police, fire or ambulance, that is sounding a siren and showing a flashing red light 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 of the roadway clear of an intersection, STOP, and REMAIN STOPPED until the emergency vehicle has passed. A driver doesn’t have to consider who is being pulled over because EVERYONE must pull over and stop. This includes drivers on BOTH SIDES OF THE ROADWAY regardless how many lanes wide it might be.

What if you don’t hear a siren? This doesn’t mean that one is not being used as emergency vehicles approaching from the rear are seldom heard before they are seen if the driver is paying attention. Pull over and stop even if you don’t hear a siren as this will avoid possible charges if you are in error.

Consider for a moment that when you require one of the emergency services it is very important to you that they arrive as soon as possible. You would appreciate other drivers making room to keep that precious time short, wouldn’t you? Regardless of what the law might say you must be prepared to extend that same courtesy to others by getting out of the way yourself.

In Austria, if you are on a multiple laned divided highway and you come upon stopped traffic causing congestion, everyone is required to stop making a clear lane up the middle for emergency vehicles.

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Somebody is asking this on another forum, hopefully you can help.   Specific question is if you're stopped at a red light, all lanes are occupied, and traffic is queued up waiting for the traffic light - what is the correct/proper procedure if an emergency vehicle is approaching from the rear?   Stay put?  Attempt to move over?


The law says that you have to move to the nearest edge of the roadway, clear of an intersection, stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle passes by. If everyone stops, doesn't move and solidly plugs the intersection, the emergency vehicle is now stuck. Someone is going to have to move, and going to have to move carefully. Cross traffic has to stop, so once it is safe, the front of the lines can move a bit to get to the edge and the space opened up will let the emergency vehicle continue.

Don't forget to signal your movement so that the emergency vehicle driver knows what is happening.

... that is the question!

If I'm amongst traffic at a red light with an emergency vehicle coming up behind, I keep track of what it's doing, how the driver is trying to deal with the blockage; if they move out into the oncoming lanes to get by, staying put is the smartest thing, I reckon, so that they can have the intersection and all exits available.

When traffic is flowing, it's weird how some drivers will try to keep moving along, even if they have maneuvered over toward the nearest kerb; they don't seem to realize that for the driver of the emergency vehicle, anything that's still moving is a hazard to try and factor in, whereas once things have stopped they can be discounted, allowing easier decision making and more rapid progress.  Only takes a moment!

Oftentimes, drivers will respond to an emergency vehicle approaching from the rear by trying to move to the right, regardless of circumstances; but that's not what the law says, and may not be the most useful response if you're in the left lane of a multi-lane road with a barrier down the centreline.  And on the freeway, where traffic has backed up from a collision ahead, I've seen the emergency vehicles gently push their way up the middle, requiring drivers to move onto the adjacent shoulder - left or right, depending on their lane - in order to create a path for them to get through.

Hello, I had a recent occurence where I was going through the intersection and the ambulance did a u-turn, my music was too loud so I didn't hear the sirens but saw him out of the corner of my eye when my wheels were in the intersection. Do I keep going through the intersection or do I stop where I am and let him go?

The law requires that you stop clear of an intersection.

If you have already entered the intersection you should clear it safely and then stop.

When you crank the tunes, it's probably worth paying more attention to your mirrors to avoid situations like this.