Behind the Wheel

How to Respond to Emergency Vehicles

May 30, 2017
We’ve all encountered emergency vehicles on the road. When you see those flashing lights, sometimes it seems like every car on the road has a different reaction. There is general protocol you can follow when you see an emergency vehicle approaching you, in order to ensure that it gets to its destination as quickly as possible. First of all, let’s establish what constitutes an emergency vehicle. They could be any of the following: fire trucks, ambulances, police vehicles, and life support agency vehicles. If you hear sirens and flashing lights, just be courteous and assume they are responding to an emergency. If you notice any of these vehicles behind you or around you, a clear path needs to be made. Follow these steps to remember how to react!
  • Stay alert. Be sure to listen to your surroundings when you drive. If you hear sirens or horns, look around to find the source while remaining conscious of the road you are on.
  • Investigate. You’ve located the source of the sirens and flashing lights, now determine the emergency vehicle’s speed and the speed of the other vehicles around you. This will help you decide what to do next.
  • React. This is where you clear a path for the emergency vehicle. If the vehicle is approaching your vicinity, let it pass you. Depending on where you are when you encounter an emergency vehicle, a couple different scenarios can come into play. If you are at an intersection, simply wait to move until the vehicle passes by. If you are driving on a road or highway, safely merge to a lane out of the vehicle’s way or pull over to the side of the road. This doesn’t mean you have to come to a complete stop, stay observant of how other drivers around you are reacting and gauge what you think the safest action is.
  • Enter. Ensure that the emergency vehicle has completely passed you, and that there are not more on the way, and re-enter the roadway you were driving on. Make sure it’s safe for you to resume driving and use your turn signals. Be extra cautious and careful when entering back onto a road at high speeds.
  • Never. Don’t just pull over and stop. There isn’t always enough room for this, nor is it always the safest option. Also, never follow the emergency vehicle or try to pass one. Try and remain at least 500 feet behind the moving emergency vehicle that actively has its sirens and lights on.
A simple way to remember these steps is to remember the acronym SIREN: Stay alert, investigate, react, enter, never!

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