Helping out the emergency services
MANY OF US experience confusion when there’s an emergency vehicle coming past us on the road. What should we do? Where should we go? Are we expected to take risks or break the law in order to clear a pathway? Confusion can lead to panic, causing us to make decisions that may not assist the emergency vehicle and could put us – or others – in danger.
A short video outlines the most appropriate course of action for drivers to take in a variety of situations where they may encounter an emergency vehicle. The video, funded by GEM Motoring Assist and available free of charge online and for download, was made with the full support of the emergency services, and sets out to clarify what we should – and what we shouldn’t – do to assist a blue light vehicle, while also ensuring we stay safe and on the right side of the law.
The first step is to be calm and observant on any road journey, so that an approaching emergency vehicle won’t take us by surprise. Constant looking and listening means we spot any hazards early, and we get time to plan how we are going to deal with them. It’s exactly the same with a blue light vehicle.
If we hear a siren or see flashing blue lights in the distance, it’s wise to assume there’s something coming our way. So at this stage, we should turn any music off in the car so we can hear the siren better. Frequent mirror checks mean we’ll see any signals from the emergency vehicle, giving us a better idea of where it needs to go.
Straight away, we need to look for somewhere to pull over and stop, even if the emergency vehicle is on the other side of the road. Although it’s vital to leave a big enough gap for the emergency vehicle to get through comfortably, we shouldn’t be driving up kerbs and pavements, as this could endanger a pedestrian and might damage the vehicle we’re driving.
The emergency services are regularly asked about what’s expected of us at traffic light junctions. For example, what if it’s an ambulance on its way to a life-threatening emergency? Or a fire engine on its way to a blaze where children are trapped and every second counts? Surely these situations mean we should drive through a red light if it means we’re clearing the road?
Definitely not, because we’re putting ourselves at great risk by doing so, and we’re also breaking the law. The advice here, as in any situation, is that we should always stay safe and legal. Blue light drivers shouldn’t expect us to go through any red light, and it’s far better to let an emergency vehicle, with its highly trained driver, find its own way around us. There’s no way we can know the specifics of a particular blue light journey, and it’s vital that we should put safety first in our efforts to assist.
In a double white line system, an emergency vehicle may switch off its sirens as it follows us. This probably means the driver is waiting until it’s safe and legal for it to overtake. So we should just keep going – at the speed limit if it’s safe – until we’re out of the double white lines and the emergency driver can go past. Also, we will be most helpful if we keep going on the approach to a bend or on the brow of a hill. We can pull over when there’s a better view ahead and the emergency driver can overtake more safely.
Remaining alert and observant in these situations gives us time to anticipate and plan, without compromising safety. Better still, our courtesy could well be helping to save a life.
GEM’s tips for assisting an emergency vehicle on a blue light journey:
- Stay safe and legal. No one expects you to put yourself at risk or break the law in an attempt to help an emergency vehicle.
- Remain calm and observant. The earlier you spot an emergency vehicle, the more time you have to plan.
- Don’t make judgements on which emergency vehicles deserve your help and which ones don’t. Aim for a consistently thoughtful and courteous attitude that puts safety first in every situation.
- If you slow down or stop, don’t move off or accelerate until the emergency vehicle has passed completely.
- There may be more than one emergency vehicle coming, so listen for different sirens, and look all round before moving off.