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Signal, move over, stop safely: How to respond to lights and sirens on the road

It happens all too often: paramedics are on their way to an emergency in an ambulance with sirens on and lights flashing when their path is blocked by another vehicle that has failed to yield.
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​“When paramedics are trying to reach a critically ill or injured patient, every second counts,” says BCEHS Paramedic Public Information Officer Jasprit Khandal. “That’s why it’s so important to always pull over and yield to ambulances and other emergency vehicles.”

Although BCEHS doesn’t track individual instances of ambulances being slowed by other drivers, many paramedics have experienced the frustration of having to slow down to accommodate a driver who doesn’t pull over when trying to reach a patient as quickly as possible.

Drivers are required by law to pull over and yield to any emergency vehicle with lights and sirens on, including BCEHS ambulances and response vehicles, police vehicles and fire trucks. 

“We only turn on our lights and sirens for urgent cases,” says BCEHS Paramedic Public Information Officer Brian Twaites. “If you see lights and hear sirens, be aware that we’re travelling to a serious, possibly life-threatening situation. Do your part and pull over safely so we can get to the person who needs our help.”

“We know that hearing sirens all of the sudden can be jarring and some drivers may not pull over in time because they’re not sure what to do,” says Jasprit. “That’s why we want to remind drivers about how to make way for us safely.”

Watch Brian and Jasprit go over what to do when you encounter lights and sirens on the road:


How to safely yield to emergency vehicles:

  • When driving on any undivided two-way road or highway:   
    • All traffic, moving in both directions, must pull to the closest curb and stop. This includes cyclists and pedestrians.
    • Never block the route of an emergency vehicle.
    • And never stop in an intersection.
  • On a divided highway or a one-way road:
    • Pull over to either the left or right side of the roadway to create a clear access lane in the centre for emergency vehicles.
    • When in doubt the best thing to do is to pull over safely to the right and stop.
  • Always use your signal when you’re about to pull over – this tells the driver of the emergency vehicle that you see them coming and you plan to pull over to the side of the road that you are indicating.
  • Never slam on the breaks and stop suddenly. 
  • Once the emergency vehicle has passed, watch and listen for more – often, multiple emergency vehicles will respond to an incident. Don’t pull back into the roadway until you’ve checked that there aren’t more emergency vehicles coming.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and the possibility of encountering an emergency vehicle. Practice safe driving by scanning your mirrors as you drive. You may see the emergency vehicle long before you hear it. 

BCEHS; emergency response
SOURCE: Signal, move over, stop safely: How to respond to lights and sirens on the road ( )
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