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Stay safe around emergency vehicles

Photo: Sparky2000/iStockphoto

Quick quiz: Your vehicle is in the middle of an intersection when you see and hear an ambulance approaching. What should you do? Stop, or keep driving through?

The answer: Never stop in an intersection. Safely drive through and then pull to the side of the road.

It’s the law to pull over and give right of way to emergency vehicles that have sirens and/or lights activated. Respecting and making room for emergency vehicles helps keep first responders, motorists and pedestrians safe. Here are some refresher tips from the National Safety Council:

  • When you hear an emergency vehicle, cover the brake until you can locate it and take appropriate action:
    • In the right lane? Slow down, signal, move to the right shoulder and stop.
    • If you’re in the left lane, move into the lane to your right.
    • If moving to the right isn’t possible, move to the right side of your lane until the emergency vehicle passes.
  • Don’t try to anticipate what emergency vehicles will do. If you see lights and hear sirens, don’t turn down a different road thinking you’ll avoid the vehicle – it might be headed in that direction. Pull safely to the side of the road and wait for it to pass.
  • Don’t follow. Following an emergency vehicle closely or trying to find out where it’s headed puts everyone on the road at risk. Let the vehicle go on its way and do the same yourself.
  • Don’t get distracted. A survey released in 2019 by NSC and the Miami-based Emergency Responder Safety Institute found that 71% of U.S. drivers take photos or videos when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road responding to a fire or a crash, or simply making a routine traffic stop. Even worse, 16% – more than 1 in 10 – said they either have struck or nearly struck a first responder or emergency vehicle stopped on or near the road. Put down your phone and pay attention to the road.

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