Emergency service vehicles

Blues and twos….what to do when emergency services vehicles approach

Should you drive onto the pavement to get out of the way of an ambulance? Go past a red light to make room for a fire engine? Is it ok to drive into a bus lane when there are blue lights behind you?

Or do you stay where you are and risk blocking the emergency vehicle’s way?

The fact is, many drivers don’t know what to do when emergency services vehicles approach them.

First all, don’t panic.

Follow the rules of the Highway Code, (see below), regarding speed limits and traffic lights. So no driving onto the pavement, onto grass verges (they may have concealed dangers like ditches), no speeding, going into bus lanes or stopping in the middle of a junction. Remember that drivers of emergency vehicles are highly trained professionals. They are used to dealing with awkward situations and are allowed to use bus lanes and go through red traffic lights. You are not!

You should slow down or stop to leave a clear path, but do not endanger other road users. If you need to, turn off the road you’re on to let the emergency services vehicle pass.

Indicate if necessary to let other road users and the emergency services vehicle know what you’re doing and before you move off again, check your mirrors.

Motorways and dual carriageways

On a motorway or dual carriageway you should pull across to the nearside lane as soon as it is safe to do so, always making sure the traffic in the other lanes is aware of what is going on and isn’t oblivious to the reasons why you are moving across the carriageways.

If all three lanes are blocked then the emergency vehicle will generally use the hard shoulder, which is why you should only use it in an emergency.

The Highway Code – rule 219

As ever, The Highway Code provides our framework, and Rule 219 states:

Emergency and Incident Support vehicles. You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. 

When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs. If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop, but try to avoid stopping before the brow of a hill, a bend or narrow section of road. 

Do not endanger yourself, other road users or pedestrians and avoid mounting the kerb. Do not brake harshly on approach to a junction or roundabout, as a following vehicle may not have the same view as you.

This video explains exactly what you should – and shouldn’t do – when dealing with an police car, ambulance or fire engine that is on a emergency call.