Emergency Vehicles Behind Me: What Should I Do???
By First Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Klein
October 26, 2018

We have seen many drivers lately not pull over for emergency vehicles. We’re not sure why: are they distracted, don’t hear/see the emergency vehicle, or just feel they can stay ahead of the emergency vehicle at their current speed? State laws — and common sense — dictate that all private and commercial vehicles yield to emergency vehicles that are operating with emergency lights and sirens. Emergency vehicle drivers are taught to pass on the left whenever possible and safe to do so while responding in emergency mode.

If it is safe for you to do so, you should slow down, pull over to the right and come to a complete stop. Do not coast or ride the shoulder.

However, there are circumstances where that may not be possible:

• If your car is already stopped, and you don’t have anywhere to pull over, simply stay put until the emergency vehicle goes around you.
• If you are blocking the route of the emergency vehicle, and you are able to pull ahead and over into a clear area, use your turn signal to indicate your intentions and proceed at a safe speed.
• If you are on the crest of a hill or a bend of a curve, proceed until oncoming traffic is visible to you and to the emergency vehicle behind you.

Other considerations:

• Never slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road when you see apparatus approaching.
• Do not make sudden or unusual moves.
• If an emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, you should pull over to your right and come to a full stop. You don't know whether the emergency vehicle is proceeding past you down the road or may turn into a driveway or intersection right in front of you.
• Do not tailgate, “draft,” or follow a responding apparatus closely. Not only is this illegal, you run the risk of a collision as vehicles pull back out into traffic after the emergency vehicle goes by.
• You are not required to slow down or pull over for emergency vehicles that are responding in the opposite direction on a divided highway or interstate.

When a driver pulls over and then drives on the shoulder at a slower speed, they lengthen the passing distance the emergency vehicle must navigate before getting clear. A vehicle traveling 20mph on the shoulder is covering 29.3 feet every second.

When you see a personal vehicle operating a flashing blue or green light, those are volunteers responding to a call. They do not have the right of way like emergency vehicles do. These flashing lights are known as courtesy lights and we ask that people pull over if they safely can, but you are not obligated to do so. These volunteers must stop for all traffic control devices and obey all traffic laws when responding.

Please consider this the next time you encounter an emergency vehicle on the road. Help us get to our destination safely and efficiently. We could be heading to help someone you know.