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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Driver Safety Tips for Emergency Vehicles

Looking in the review mirror and seeing an emergency vehicle approaching can be a nerve racking experience. As the vehicle gets closer and the sirens get louder the experience can be even more overwhelming. For drivers who are unsure of how to respond to emergency vehicles it can be an especially stressful.

Police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks are considered emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles have red, white or a combination of red and white lights and when they are responding to an emergency they are in constant motion and may have their sirens on.

In New York State, drivers are required to obey a few simple rules of engagement when sharing the roadways with emergency vehicles. Here is a helpful hint; it's never a good idea to speed up to stay in front of the emergency vehicle.

  • All other vehicles must yield the right of way when being approached by an emergency vehicle with activated lights and sirens.

  • Yielding the right of way means immediately driving to the right hand edge of the roadway. The car must be parallel to the roadway and clear of an intersection.

  • All vehicles must stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed. Unless directed otherwise by a police officer.



Similar to the misconceptions about the rules of engagement with emergency vehicles, many drivers are unsure of the parking regulations regarding fire hydrants. Unless there are signs indicating otherwise, it is illegal to park less than 15 feet away from a fire hydrant. Vehicles are also prohibited to stop or stand in front of a fire hydrant unless there is a licensed driver in the front seat. Vehicles are permitted to stop in front of a fire hydrant in this case because the driver is able to immediately move out of the way in the event of an emergency.

Many drivers are confused by flashing lights on other emergency vehicle. The different colored lights are used to represent the organization their drivers volunteer for. In order to display those lights the drivers must have written permission from the chief officer of the organization they volunteer for. Even after written permission they are only allowed to display their lights in the event of an emergency.

The following are the three most common flashing lights on non-emergency vehicles:

  • A blue flashing light on a personal vehicle denotes a volunteer fire fighter responding to an emergency call.

  • A flashing green light represents a volunteer ambulance service member responding to an emergency call.

  • A flashing yellow (amber) colored light indicated a hazard vehicle (snowplow, tow-truck, utility company truck, etc) is engaging in an hazardous operation.



Note: in cities with a population over 1 million, flashing yellow lights may be placed on a vehicle of someone who is a member of a volunteer civil or crime patrol organization.

Learn more about Driver Safety and Education at the National Safety Commission.

Article: Emergency Vehicles Right of Way and Laws

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