Don’t panic – just keep calm in an emergency


Be alert to emergency vehicles but keep calm and make way safely, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

It can be daunting when an emergency vehicle – blue lights flashing and sirens blaring – comes into view even when, if it is a police car, you know you have done nothing wrong!

It’s more a case of doing the right things to let the emergency vehicle through safely.

The other day I saw a car indicate to pull to the left so an ambulance approaching from behind could get through only for a following car to pull out to pass, forcing the ambulance to slow unnecessarily. Rule 219 of the Highway Code states: ‘You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs.’

Here are some tips on how to stay safe and allow an emergency vehicle to pass with the least delay.

Be alert – you often hear them before seeing them. Check mirrors.

  • Try to locate the vehicle and consider the route it may take and take appropriate action to let it pass without breaking rules of the road.
  • Trained emergency vehicle drivers have exemptions to the law but you must not go through red lights or speed to allow them to pass.
  • Don’t panic or brake suddenly.
  • If possible, indicate and pull over to the side of the road, checking for pedestrians and cyclists. Don’t pull over on or near a hill, bend or narrow section of the road.
  • Don’t mount the kerb unless you absolutely have to and only if you won’t put pedestrians at risk.
  • If you are approaching a roundabout allow the emergency vehicle to leave it before you enter the roundabout yourself.
  • If about to come out from a side road, stay there until an emergency vehicle has passed, even if you can only hear it at this point.
  • On a dual-carriageway or motorway, signal to move to a nearside lane but don’t cut in front of other vehicles.
  •  If the road has a solid white line nearest you, keep a safe speed and do not exceed the limit. If you can safely pull off, signal and do so. If not, wait until the white lines end, then signal to stop, slow down or pull over.
  • After the emergency vehicle has passed, check there are no more coming before you continue.



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