by Craig Spieker, Assistant Chief/Education Coordinator, Hanco EMS
If you or someone you love requires emergency assistance, you want help to arrive as quickly and safely as possible. Fortunately, you can help first responders reach an emergency as quickly as possible. It is as simple as pulling to the right for sirens and lights.
Many people who see an emergency vehicle with activated lights and sirens panic or simply do not adhere to the rules of the road. The law is specific: Drivers must yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle, and failure to do so can cause serious accidents or delays for paramedics, firefighters and police officers arriving at the scene of an emergency. First responders are careful to avoid vehicle collisions by passing vehicles on the left, driving slowly when traveling against traffic or coming to a complete stop at intersections if necessary. However, the cooperation of ALL drivers on the roadway is critical for everyone’s safety.
There are simple steps and rules to follow when you are on the road and encounter an emergency vehicle responding to a scene:
- Stay calm.
- Pull to the right and come to a complete stop.
- If you are traveling on a high-speed road or if there is no room to stop, move to the right and slow down as much as possible.
- If you are in the left lane, move over into the right lane as other traffic in the right lane moves over and stops.
- If you cannot move to the right because of another vehicle or obstacle, just stop. Your action will let the driver of the emergency vehicle know what you are doing and allow the driver to anticipate where to drive.
- When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind while you are stopped at an intersection, stay where you are unless you can pull to the right.
- On a four-lane highway or street without barriers, both sides of traffic should pull to the right.
- Be careful when driving by or around a motor vehicle accident or any situation where emergency vehicles are parked and the firefighters are working.
- Drivers should stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.
In contrast, there are several actions you should avoid when encountering a responding emergency vehicle:
- Do not panic.
- Do not play your radio so loudly that you are unable to hear sirens.
- Do not drive distracted.
- Do not stop in the middle of your lane when there is room to pull to the right.
- Do not pull to the left into the center turn lane, left turn lane or into oncoming traffic.
- Do not race ahead to make the green light or turn before the emergency vehicle gets there.
- Do not turn quickly to the left onto a side street or driveway.
- Do not drive through a red light or stop sign when an emergency vehicle approaches from behind.
- Do not disregard the presence of the emergency vehicle by continuing to drive.
During emergencies, seconds count. By following these rules, you can assist both first responders and victims of emergency situations. Speak with your local first responders for more information.