Drivers are being warned not to put themselves at risk when making way for emergency vehicles.
As councils in England get more powers to fine drivers for moving traffic offences, including jumping red lights, a leading motoring organisation has urged drivers not to risk a substantial fine for breaking the law when confronted with an emergency vehicle trying to get past.
Emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire engines and police cars are permitted to do certain things that regular drivers are not, such as go through red lights or drive in bus lanes. Even when getting out of the way of a “blue light” vehicle, motorists are subject to the law so risk a fine of up to £105 if they do any of these things.
Driving group GEM Motoring Assist is urging drivers to be “blue light aware” and understand the best course of action to stay safe and on the right side of the law.
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GEM chief executive Neil Worth commented: “We all want to help emergency service drivers, and most of the time it’s just a simple case of pulling over to let them past.
“But we need to ensure that anything we do as drivers is safe and legal. That’s because we must all follow the rules of the road, even when giving way to an emergency vehicle.
“Blue light drivers have certain privileges, but the rest of us do not. So if we drive through a red traffic light or into a bus lane to make space for an ambulance, we risk a substantial fine, even if we were simply trying to help.”
Mr Worth emphasised that while emergency drivers appreciate drivers moving out of the way when it’s safe and legal, they do not expect anyone to put themselves or others in danger – or on the wrong side of the law.
To help drivers understand the best course of action, GEM has created a series of videos explaining what to do in a number of common situations and issued the following advice on how to help emergency crews while staying within the law.
The first thing is not to panic and just come to a sudden stop. Doing so can actually make matters worse for the emergency vehicle.
Take stock of your surroundings, try to work out which way the vehicle is heading and pull out of their way if it is safe to do so.
It’s worth bearing in mind that often more than one emergency vehicle will be heading to the same scene, so be on the lookout for multiple vehicles heading in the same direction.
At traffic lights
Emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens active are allowed to pass through a red light, however, regular drivers are not, even if it’s to make way for an ambulance or fire engine.
An emergency crew won’t want you to go through a red traffic light. So don’t break the law or take any risks by moving past the light. If you’re first in the queue at a red light, stay where you are and leave the emergency driver to find a way around you.
Roundabouts and junctions
If you’re approaching a roundabout or a junction and you see an emergency vehicle, look at its lane position, as this should let you know where it wants you to go. If you’re already at the junction, stop, be patient and wait for it to pass. Remember, there may be more than one emergency vehicle approaching the junction, so check before moving off.
Solid white lines
Solid white lines on a road indicate that it is not safe to overtake and that applies to blue light vehicles as much as any other.
On a road with a solid white line system, an emergency vehicle will probably switch off its siren as it follows you. In these circumstances keep going – at the speed limit if it’s safe – until you’re clear of the solid white lines. When the siren goes on again, that’s your cue to let the ambulance go past.
Motorways and dual carriageways
On motorways and dual carriageways, move to the left to allow an ambulance to pass in the outside lane if it’s clear. In slow and stationary traffic, emergency vehicles usually use the motorway hard shoulder, so you should only go onto the hard shoulder if you have an emergency of your own.
If there’s no hard shoulder, make way for emergency vehicles by creating an “emergency corridor” - this is where vehicles in adjoining lanes move to opposite sides of their lanes to create a gap between them. When you’ve let an emergency vehicle through, stay where you are, as other vehicles are likely to be coming through.
On a smart motorway, one or more lanes may be closed because of an incident ahead – you’ll know because of red X signs above the carriageway. Emergency vehicles will use these lanes if they can. Keep out of these red X lanes. If no lanes appear to be closed, be prepared to help create the emergency corridor.