What to Do When an Emergency Vehicle Approaches

Emergency personnel risk their lives every day to help us in our time of need. Sometimes they face that risk just getting there. When you're driving and you see emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on, time is of the essence - move over quickly and carefully.

Emergency vehicles include ambulances, fire department vehicles, police vehicles, and privately owned vehicles for firefighter or life support agencies.

To protect the safety of officers, emergency crews and everyone on the road, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses the acronym SIREN:
  • Stay Alert - Pay attention, keep the noise level low in your car and look for more than 1 emergency vehicle approaching when you hear a siren. You may consider driving with your window cracked - that will allow you to hear emergency sirens more clearly. Also, be aware for pedestrians who may be in the crosswalk or at the edge of the roadway.
  • Investigate - Check your rear-view mirror and both sides of your vehicle to estimate the speed of the emergency vehicle and plan your next move. Pull off the highway safely and gradually brake to avoid losing control.
  • React - React quickly and calmly and scan in all directions before pulling over. Always use a turn signal and don't slam on the brakes or pull over suddenly.
  • Enter - Before re-entering the road, look in all directions, turn on your signal and gradually merge back into traffic.
  • Never - Don't stop at a place that doesn't have enough room to pull over safely and never follow or try to outrun and emergency vehicle.
Follow these helpful tips to protect the lives of the people who serve our community. Though you may see them often, it's important to pay attention and move over every time they may be on the way to save the life of someone you love.

On the Road with Emergency Vehicles
When you see a stopped emergency vehicle:
  • Slow down and move over a lane if possible. If traffic or other conditions prevent you from changing lanes, you must slow down and proceed with caution.
When an emergency vehicle is approaching:
  • Pull over to the edge of the roadway, clear of intersections, and stop.
  • Remain there until the emergency vehicle has passed. Watch for others. There may be several other emergency vehicles.
  • Keep a foot on the brake so the brake lights let emergency vehicle drivers know you have stopped.
  • Stay at least 500 feet behind any moving emergency vehicle displaying flashing warning lights and sounding a siren. Never race after an emergency vehicle to get through a traffic light.
  • Never pass a moving emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights unless directed to do so by a police officer or emergency personnel.
By following a few simple rules, you can help emergency workers get to the scene faster and safer.