Understanding how to respond when encountering an emergency vehicle is crucial to keeping the roads safe for all drivers. During urgent situations, drivers of emergency and first-response vehicles rely on the public to know how to react to their presence. Not knowing the proper course of action can cause accidents that result in serious injuries.
Though it is important that all drivers understand the proper road-sharing steps to take in these situations, emergency vehicles have a responsibility to public safety as well. If you have been involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle, talk with a personal injury lawyer about your case.
Since 1966, the truck accident attorneys at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., have been fighting for people in Alabama who have been injured in auto accidents. We understand how overwhelming victims’ lives can become in the aftermath of an accident, which is why we work to be a helpful and trusted resource for our clients.
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Common Emergency Vehicles
Emergency vehicles respond to urgent situations, such as fires, medical emergencies, and criminal activity. During these critical times, these vehicles travel quickly, often in an effort to save lives. For this reason, emergency vehicles are not always subject to the same rules of the road that other drivers must follow.
The most common emergency response vehicles include police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. When these vehicles respond to emergencies, they are required to alert other drivers by using sirens and flashing lights. These signals make it clear to everyone on the road — drivers, cyclists, nearby pedestrians — that they need to take caution and move out of the way as quickly as possible.
Understanding the Right of Way
In emergency situations, when a response vehicle has engaged its sirens and flashing lights, it has the right of way. All other vehicles must make room for it to pass as easily as possible.
If a driver is at an intersection when an emergency vehicle approaches, they should yield, forgoing their turn to cross the intersection until the emergency vehicle passes. The burden is typically on drivers to ensure that intersections are clear and that normal traffic is not interfering with an emergency vehicle’s ability to travel to its destination.
What to Do When an Emergency Vehicle Approaches
The rules of the road are simple when an emergency vehicle approaches. First, stay calm and make sure that you are aware of your surroundings. Take stock of the emergency vehicle’s location when you hear the sirens.
If the vehicle approaches from behind, be cautious, use your blinkers, and move as far to the right as you can, allowing the emergency vehicle to pass. Be aware of other cars around you, and make sure not to pull over to the side without looking. Once the emergency vehicle has passed, exercise the same caution when reentering the roadway.
When an emergency vehicle is coming toward you, use the same technique, and move as far to the right as you can. It is not uncommon for first responders to drive into the oncoming lane of traffic when necessary. By pulling to the side, you are helping clear a path.
If you find yourself driving behind an emergency vehicle, stay anywhere from 300 to 500 feet away from its bumper.
Take extra caution at dangerous intersections in Huntsville. If you have a green light at an intersection but hear sirens, determine their origin before proceeding. If a fire truck, ambulance or police car is traveling at a high speed and collides with a passenger car at an intersection, the results could be fatal.
Observe “move over” laws. Move over laws exist in all 50 states and are meant to protect first responders at accident sites. If an ambulance, fire truck or police car is on the side of the road with its lights flashing, drivers are required to move over a lane if possible. If you are not able to move over, reduce your speed and be cautious. This lessens the danger that first responders are exposed to by speeding cars.
What Not to Do When an Emergency Vehicle Approaches
Don’t panic when you hear sirens or see flashing lights. Emergency responders keep the community safe.
Calmly move out of the way, and avoid the impulse to jerk your car over to the side of the road. Instead, check your blind spots and stay clear of other drivers who are attempting to move aside as well.
If there is room to pull over, don’t stop in the middle of the road. But if you do find yourself in the middle of an intersection, continue on through to the other side to keep the passage clear.
Can an Emergency Vehicle Be at Fault for an Accident?
There are times when an emergency vehicle driver is responsible for causing an accident. The driver of an emergency vehicle must exercise due regard for the safety of all persons which places a burden on the emergency driver to operate reasonably under the circumstances. If an operator of an ambulance or fire truck violates that duty, then they could be liable for any injuries caused by their negligence.
In an Accident With an Emergency Vehicle? Call Us
Establishing liability after an accident with an emergency vehicle can be complicated. If you have been involved in a crash with a fire truck, police car, or ambulance, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer will be able to help you determine who may be responsible and to what extent.
The lawyers at Morris, King, & Hodge, P.C., understand the serious pain and suffering that truck accidents can cause, and we fight to advocate for our client’s rights. Call our offices today or contact us online to speak with one of our lawyers about your legal options during a free consultation.