What should you do when an emergency vehicle approaches with lights and siren? Pull over, right? What if you can’t?
Both new and more experienced drivers have heard the same basic message when it comes to driving with approaching emergency vehicles: If the lights and siren are activated, pull safely to the right lane or shoulder and come to a stop. But with multi-lane, one way streets and intersections with multiple turn lanes, this can be confusing and potentially dangerous. If you are in the far inside left turn lane at a busy intersection, should you really try to cross to the right over 4 lanes? That probably is a recipe for a crash with other vehicles. Many of your fellow motorists may not see or hear the emergency vehicle and have no idea why you are veering to the right across multiple lanes of traffic. The best plan is probably one that recognizes some of the basic elements of defensive driving.
First, it is always a good idea to glance in your rear-view mirror on a regular basis. See what is going on behind you in traffic. Next, on a busy roadway, always be aware of vehicles to your right and left as well as vehicles possibly in your mirrors blind spots. If you are paying attention to these things, you are ready to safely deal with an approaching emergency vehicle.
When you hear the siren, or see the lights, try to ascertain whether it is possible to safely pull over to the right shoulder or lane and come to a stop. If it is not, or if you are already stopped at an intersection or turn lane, just STOP OR STAY STOPPED. That is the safest position for you, other motorists and the emergency vehicle. Simply coming to a complete halt allows the driver of the emergency vehicle to make decisions on how to navigate that particular roadway or intersection to avoid vehicles and continue on. Confused or nervous drivers that stay in motion, not knowing what to do or where to go are the drivers that usually collide with other motorists or the emergency vehicle in these situations.
In summary: When in doubt over what to do when confronted with a public safety vehicle on an emergency run, simply stop and let the emergency vehicle make the adjustment. If every driver follows this plan, emergency vehicles will be able to negotiate even the busiest streets and intersections while you and your passengers remain safe.
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