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How to react to an emergency services vehicle responding to an incident

Stuart Gillian - DWFS Sml

The subject of how to react to an on-coming emergency service vehicle under ‘Blues and Twos’ has been much discussed recently.  Transforming Travel asked Stuart Gillion from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) to give us the definitive point of view from his Service.

Any change or development to UK roads is of course, subject to governance by the Department for Transport. They require all parties involved to ensure that any road projects are built to national standards and can be used safely by all vehicles, including the emergency services.

As a result, DWFRS works closely with all the local authorities in its region, consulting with them on designs, roadworks, closures and diversions.  BCP Council and Dorset Council regularly ask our team about both planned and emergency roadworks and as key stakeholders, we were also consulted on the development of Transforming Travel's Transforming Cities Fund programme.

We all, as road users, regularly encounter emergency service vehicles responding to an incident, so it is important to know how to react in that situation. Our advice in this event is …

Don’t panic!

  • If you hear or see blue lights, stay calm. Look for somewhere safe to move left and stop. Keep moving if you are on an approach to a bend or on the brow of a hill – pull over and stop when there’s a better view ahead. Stay out of bus lanes and keep off kerbs and pavements, and don’t stop near traffic islands.
  • 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.

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 a fire engine.
  • Our fire crews 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 vehicle to find its way around you. The driver may turn off the blue lights and sirens until it is safe to pass through the traffic lights.

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.
  • f 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 emergency vehicle go past.

Motorways and dual carriageways

  • On motorways and dual carriageways, move to the left to allow an emergency vehicle to pass in the outside lane if it’s clear. 
  • In slow and stationary traffic, emergency vehicles may 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 there may be other emergency service vehicles coming through.

I hope you found this advice useful! Remember – if you see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching, be it on a motorway, busy town centre road, or rural countryside lane - stay calm, assess your surroundings and think about your safety and the safety of other road users and pedestrians by avoiding mounting the kerb and pavement.


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