Blue lights and sirens? How to respond as a driver…

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One thing that we’ve come across recently is seeing on a regular basis how other road users react, or sometimes, don’t react to approaching emergency services whilst travelling.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Driving happily along the road, when all of a sudden, we hear the distant sound of a siren, or spot the blue lights, of an emergency service vehicle. And what’s our immediate thought? Correct – is it coming my way and what should I do?

What happens next is all about how calm you stay and what actions you take.

One thing that I don’t remember being taught during my driving lessons is what actions to take in this situation. Naturally, it’s a difficult one to simulate, although some learner drivers will of course have been lucky enough to experience it for real during the course of their lessons. I say lucky, as it’s something that in an ideal world, everybody should experience.

The video in this post has been made by GEM Motoring Assist on behalf of the emergency services. And what it does very well is to give you a good insight into the various scenarios in which you may encounter emergency vehicles on a “blue light run” and how to deal with them.

One thing that’s key to remember is that absolutely no emergency vehicle on this kind of run will expect you to break any road traffic laws in order to enable them to get through. At ALL times, your own safety and that of others around you that may be affected by your actions is of paramount importance. If you go through a red light yourself, cross a solid white line, or use a bus or taxi lane, you may well find yourself prosecuted with no discrimination for the fact that you were moving out of the way for the emergency services.

Above all, be calm and don’t panic. It’s worth following this advice, as posted by North Wales Police:

  • Stay alert to approaching emergency vehicles, you’ll often hear them before you see them so keep the music low enough to hear warning sirens. Keep an eye on your mirrors too.
  • When you hear the sirens or see flashing lights, try to locate the vehicle and consider the route that it may take.  Take any appropriate action to let it pass, but be careful not to contravene any traffic signs or rules of the road.
  • Remember: Emergency vehicle drivers are specially trained and have exemptions to the law that you don’t have, so you must not go through red lights or speed to allow them to pass.
  • Don’t panic or brake suddenly. This could slow the progress of the emergency vehicle, and put yourself and other road users in danger.
  • If you are able, pull over to the side of the road, indicating beforehand and keeping any eye out for pedestrians and cyclists. However don’t pull over on or near to a hill, bend or narrow section of the road.
  • Don’t mount the kerb unless you absolutely have to and, even then, only if you are certain that you won’t put pedestrians at risk.
  • If you are approaching a roundabout allow the emergency vehicle to reach, navigate and leave before you enter the roundabout yourself.
  • If you are about to emerge from a side road, stay where you are until an emergency vehicle on the main road has passed, even if you can only hear it at this point. Don’t take chances, it will be difficult to judge their speed.
  • On a dual-carriageway or motorway you should move over to a nearside lane by signalling your intention and merging with vehicles already there.  Don’t cut in front of other vehicles, they may not yet be aware of the approaching emergency vehicle.
  • On a road with double white line system, and the line nearest you is solid, maintain a safe speed and do not exceed the limit.  The emergency vehicle will remain behind and may turn off the sirens or lights.  If you can safely pull off the road, signal your intention and then pull off.  Otherwise wait until the white lines change priority, or end, then find a place to stop, slow down or pull over to allow the vehicle to pass, signalling your intention as before.
  • After the emergency vehicle has passed check there are no more vehicles coming before you continue – there may be more than one going to the same incident.
  • Wait until it is safe to do so, then indicate as necessary and rejoin your route.