There are numerous emergency driving situations where you have to pull over. For example, when you see a paramedic or police vehicle approach you with an open siren and flashing lights. Knowing how to pull over in an emergency is a skill most drivers fear and worry about. In this article, we will talk about the steps you need to take if you are ever in such a situation.
How to Identify a Case of an Emergency?
In most cases, an emergency can be identified through a siren and flashing lights, whether from an ambulance, police car, firefighter truck, etc. Red is the most common color that is used to indicate emergencies. There are other colored lights that you may face, including blue, white, amber, and green. State statutes decide what departments can use these colors and where the lights can be mounted on a vehicle.
- Red Lights: The driver can only use red flashing lights in case of a real emergency, and they have to approach the destination as quickly as possible. Red lights are mounted on police cars, fire trucks, and other rescue squad vehicles.
- Blue lights: Police and other law enforcement cars normally use blue or a combination of red and blue lights. Rescue squad members and volunteer firefighters in some states may also use blue flashing lights in their private vehicles in response to an emergency.
- Yellow or amber lights: Construction vehicles generally use yellow lights to indicate caution, normally because these motor vehicles move slower than the rest of the traffic or sometimes block the traffic completely. School buses use a combination of red and yellow lights to alert the traffic about slowing down or stopping during loading and unloading.
- Green: Green light signifies an emergency in many US states and is generally used by a volunteer firefighter’s or fire chief’s car. It is also used by Homeland Security and other private security agencies that are required to guard government buildings.
- White: A tanker truck or school bus for fueling will normally use a flashing white light.
What to do if you have to Pull Over in an Emergency Situation?
When faced with an emergency, try to stay as calm as possible, or you may make rash and dangerous decisions. While it is important to stay calm, you must also take action quickly and wisely to avoid collisions with other cars or pedestrian accidents.
Gauge the Situation
Always gauge the situation first before making any quick and sudden movements. See if you need to slow down or pull over, and then do it correctly.
- If you are driving on a wide, quiet road, you may only have to signal your left indicator and start slowing down until the emergency vehicle passes you.
- If you are traveling on a high-speed road or a path without room to pull over, slow down as much as possible.
- If you are traveling in the left lane, pull over to the right lane until the traffic moves over.
- If you are driving in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue driving through it. Pull over to the right roadway, and stop. Stay there until the emergency vehicle has driven away. Don’t be hasty, and watch for other emergency vehicles as well. Keep your foot on the brake so the lights can alert the emergency vehicle driver that you have stopped.
- Never pull over in the middle of the road if you hear an emergency vehicle approaching, or it could result in severe crashes.
- The NHTSA recommends that you stop and look for more than one emergency vehicle approaching when you hear a siren.
- Never race behind an emergency vehicle to run a red light.
Check your Mirrors
Even in an emergency, you must respect the road safety rules. Make sure to check your surrounding areas in all the mirrors and look for any blind spots before making a decision. Avoid merging back into the traffic right after pulling over for an emergency vehicle. Before you do so, study the surroundings carefully to see if the roads are clear.
Turn off the Music
Driving with some cool tunes is fine, but if you think you hear the wails of a siren, quickly turn off the music box. This will allow you to observe how far away the emergency vehicle is and give you plenty of time to process the situation and react accordingly.
Respect the Law
Emergency vehicle drivers are permitted to break certain laws in certain situations since they have been trained appropriately. As a driver, you should always respect the law, no matter how frustrating it gets.
Do not commit a driving offense, or you can quickly end up with a fine and poor driving record, such as running a red light because you were nervous. Do not go against the law to help emergency drivers pass through since that is not expected or required of you. Do what you can to help without breaking any rules or traffic laws.
Leave Room for Overtaking
Most emergency vehicles are substantially bigger than the average car, requiring more space to safely overtake. Moreover, give plenty of space if you have to overtake a parked emergency vehicle since they may have to rush a suspect or patient into the vehicle while you are passing. The rule of thumb is to stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.
Being in an emergency driving situation can be scary and overwhelming, so many drivers struggle with it. With the tips mentioned above, you can safely maneuver your vehicle and make way for the emergency vehicle. Make sure to follow the traffic laws in any situation.
If you are ever involved in a road injury due to pulling over in an emergency, don’t panic. Call 911 immediately and then contact a reputable car accident lawyer in your area. These professionals are trained and experienced in providing legal representation and can make the process much quicker and more efficient. According to Koch & Brim, a lawyer can help you establish fault for a car accident, even in tricky situations like performing an emergency stop.