Ambulance Rushing Through A City

There are many different driving situations that unless you are directly faced with the task of reacting and managing the tricky scenario, there is no real way of practising the procedure to go through to ensure that both you and other road users remain safe.

One of the most prominent examples is what to do if you suddenly see an emergency vehicle such as the police or paramedics approach you with flashing blue lights and sounding their siren. Dealing with emergency vehicles continues to be a skill that many drivers fear and worry about, so here we discuss in detail how to pull over for emergency vehicles and tips to remain calm.

How To Pull Over For Emergency Vehicles While Staying Safe

The term emergency vehicle relates to any vehicle that uses flashing lights as a signal that they must keep continually moving to react to an emergency. Ordinary emergency vehicles in the UK include police cars, ambulances and fire engines. Bomb disposal teams, coastguards and the national blood service are also classed as emergency vehicles, although are less frequent and you will only be faced with these types on a very rare occasion.

Rule 219 of The Highway Code relates to the laws regarding dealing with emergency vehicles on the road; it states that you must always remain alert for emergency vehicles while driving. If one does appear, you must first consider your route and then continue to take action immediately in a calm and orderly manner. Tips for reacting to these types of situations and more details of Rule 219 will be discussed later in this article.

Police Officers

How Do You Know Whether It Is An Emergency?

In the majority of cases, an emergency can be recognised through blue flashing lights and a siren, whether this may be from a police car, ambulance, etc. Blue flashing lights legally can only be used by the driver if it is a real emergency and they have to arrive at their destination as quickly as possible, in no other situations must it be used. You only need to give way to emergency vehicles if these signs are present.

There are a few other coloured lights that you may come across. A green light is used for a doctor who is on an emergency call out, and an amber light is used to alert other drivers of a potential hazard. Examples of vehicles that use amber lights are highway maintenance, breakdown recovery and road cleaning vehicles such as gritters.

Blue Police Lights

Can Emergency Vehicles Break The Rules?

The answer to the question above is a mix of both yes and no depending on the rule discussed.

Emergency drivers are allowed to break some rules, for example, they can drive above the speed limit, drive on the hard shoulder of the motorway and drive on the right-hand side if they need to overtake other vehicles. However, similarly to any other road user, they cannot ignore a no entry or one-way road sign, nor can they ignore level crossing signals, they must still stop and wait. Most emergency drivers would be aware of roads that display these types of obstacles and will opt for routes that cut out these areas.

Tips For Pulling Over For Emergency Vehicles

  • Assess The Situation:
    Always assess the situation first before attempting to make any sudden movements. Do you really need to stop stationary or can you just slow down? In some cases, if you are on a quiet, open road, you may only need to signal your left indicator and start to slow down, and the emergency vehicle can pass you without having to come to a stop. If you do need to stop, don’t panic. Look out for a safe place to pull over, then indicate and start to move over. Never emergency stop in the middle of the road, block junctions or drive up onto a pathway.An instructor in our driving school franchise once had an incident with a pupil who was taking driving lessons in Wokingham and Bracknell. They had heard a police car siren approaching, panicked and swerved straight into the nearest space they saw, which was a pathway outside a school. Their instructor luckily took control and managed to stop an accident, but it just shows how quickly accidents can happen if you do not assess the situation first.
  • Always Check Your Mirrors:
    Although you may be faced with a situation in which you are forced to act quickly, never forget about your basic driving safety skills. Always check your surroundings in all mirrors, including your blind spot, before coming to a decision. Never merge straight back into the traffic after stopping for an emergency vehicle, always take one last observation in your mirrors behind you to check whether the coast is clear – there is often a second emergency vehicle to follow.
  • Turn Down Your Music:
    We all love to drive with our favourite tunes playing full blast, however, if you think you can hear a siren, always turn down your music. It will help you to judge how far away the emergency vehicle is behind you and will give you more time to react.
  • Stick To The Law:
    Emergency drivers are allowed to break specific laws when on a call out because they have taken an advanced driving course, you haven’t, so must do your very best to stick to the rules. Don’t commit a driving offence and end up with a fine, such as driving through a red traffic light because you panicked. Emergency drivers will not expect you to do anything that is dangerous or against the law to let them pass through.
  • Leave Room To Overtake:
    Most emergency vehicles are significantly larger than your average car, think of how big fire engines and ambulances are meaning they’re going to need a lot of space to overtake safely. Also, give a lot of space if you are required to overtake a parked emergency vehicle, they may need to rush a patient or suspect into the vehicle quickly while you pass.

Ambulance On The Motorway

Can You React Safely To Emergency Vehicles?

If you have never had an instance where you have had to react to an upcoming emergency vehicle on the roads, do not let it worry you, taking a thorough approach to the situation and responding to each aspect at a time will make it a straightforward task.

We hope that our article has settled your nerves a little and you are now ready for any driving scenario you may be faced with!