You hear sirens and see flashing lights. There’s only one thing to do. Pull over.
There’s a reason you’re moving out of the way.
Even a few minutes delay can be a matter of life and death when you’re traveling by ambulance. The same holds true if a first responder can’t get to the scene of an accident, a fire, or disaster. Emergency vehicles need to get to the place where they can help people. If you’re on the road where they are traveling, you can help them get there by giving them a clear path to their destination.
Your moving car is dangerous to stopped vehicles.
You may have noticed a police officer, a roadside worker, a car pulled over on the side of the road, or even a wreck. Driving by them or rubbernecking at high rates of speed is dangerous. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), “making a traffic or emergency stop on the side of our nation’s highways is one of the most dangerous things law enforcement officers do in the line of duty.”
Every two weeks, a first responder or roadside worker loses his/her life, reported AAA. The agency recommends slowing down to a speed that is 10-20 mph slower than the speed limit and changing lanes to be further away.
Pay attention so you’ll hear and see emergency vehicles.
If you have the radio blaring, if you’re texting, or otherwise distracted, you may not see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching. You might not know that you have to pull over until that vehicle is right there. Not only is that stressful, but your quick actions might also cause a collision.
Here’s what to do when you see lights and hear sirens.
- Put on your turn signal and slow down.
- Check your mirrors and make sure the way is clear.
- Move over to the shoulder and park your vehicle.
- Wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. You will want to stay at least 500 feet behind it.
- Check your mirrors, put on your turn signal and carefully pull back into traffic.
Importantly, don’t slam on your brakes. Don’t travel through a red light. Don’t stop in the middle of your lane. And never try to outrun an emergency vehicle.
Where you are, and the direction you’re traveling, matter.
Emergency vehicles don’t always come from behind you. Sometimes they are traveling in the opposite direction, on the other side of the road. Do you still have to move over? Check your state laws for the rules regarding moving over for emergency vehicles.
- If you are traveling in a high-speed lane, and there is no room to stop, slow down.
- If you are traveling in the left lane, go right as traffic on the right moves over.
- If you are stopped at an intersection, stay there.
- If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite side of a divided highway, you don’t need to pull over.
- If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite side of the road, and there is no divider, pull over to your right. That vehicle may need to use your lane to get by.
Every state in the U.S. has a move-over law. Most people don’t know about it. Check your state’s law and learn what you need to do to keep everyone safe.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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Your information is incorrect about the California Vehicle Code and a motorist’s obligations under the law when an emergency vehicle approaches. Nowhere within the vehicle code does it exempt or preclude a driver from moving to the right just because they are on a divided highway. Your interpretation is factually incorrect. ALL motorists must pull to the right side of the road, even if it is a divided highway. This is predicated upon the fact that quite frequently, police officers and firefighters drive in the opposite lanes of traffic, even on the other side of a divided highway. Just thought you should know.