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Tips For Driving Safely Around Emergency Vehicles

Published: June 2020

When you're approaching an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadway, it's a good idea to know what to do. While laws vary by state, here are some general tips to keep in mind when sharing the road with emergency vehicles.

Emergency vehicles driving on a road.

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Understand Your State's 'Move Over' Law

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), all 50 states have a "move over" law. You should look into your state's specific law to make sure you're aware of its details and following local guidelines. But, in general, this law requires that drivers slow down and move over to accommodate emergency vehicles with flashing lights, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These include police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, though some states may require that drivers follow this law for any vehicle with blinking or flashing lights, says the DOT.

Know How to Safely Pull Over For Emergency Vehicles

Here are some tips to help you safely navigate around emergency vehicles.

When an emergency vehicle approaches from behind
Slow down, pull your vehicle into the right lane (or shoulder) and come to a stop, recommends the City of Madison Fire Department. If you are on a multilane road and cannot pull into the right lane due to traffic, pull your vehicle as far to the right as possible. This can help emergency vehicles move around traffic using the median.

When an emergency vehicle approaches from the opposite direction
The City of Roanoke says you should pull over on the side of the road (not in an intersection) and come to a complete stop. Watch for other emergency vehicles and remain on the side of the road until all of them have passed.

When an emergency vehicle is stopped
Slow down your car and move into an open lane, if possible, says Michigan's Office of Highway Safety Planning. Your state's move over law may also have more specific requirements for passing a stopped emergency vehicle. For example, Michigan's Office of Highway Safety Planning also states that drivers are required to slow their vehicle to at least 10 mph under the speed limit when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.

Practice a Safe Following Distance

Even after an emergency vehicle has passed, you should keep your vehicle at a safe distance behind it. While rules can also vary by state, a general rule of thumb is to stay 500 feet behind an emergency vehicle, says the City of Madison Fire Department.

Following these tips can help you keep yourself and first responders safe on the road. Remember to check your state's laws and look for other local guidelines to make sure you're aware of the requirements in your area.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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