Move Over To Pass Emergency Vehicles

It’s a sad reflection on the standard of driving — in the USA or anywhere else — when, within three days, three separate law enforcement agencies feel obliged to ask drivers not to kill their officers wherever patrol cars have stopped on the shoulder of the highway. (See the DSA “Road Safety in the News” page for July 8, 2022 — link on the gray bar above.)

Several American states have introduced legislation making specific demands of all drivers when approaching any emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder or the roadside with its lights flashing. Still, whether there is legislation in your state or not, you should always be prepared to do the following:

  1. In plenty of time, do a correct and safe lane change to move away from the emergency vehicle — check mirrors, let your left signal flash at least four times before starting the lane change, check the left-hand external mirror once more, and check over your left shoulder, then if it’s safe to move one lane to the left.
  2. If there isn’t the time or enough safe space to do a safe lane change, get your speed off promptly — check your mirrors, use your four-way hazard lights if you feel threatened from behind, and brake with the required, safe amount of firmness so that by the time you reach the emergency vehicle you have significantly cut your speed.

If you live in a drive-on-the-left country, such as Australia, India, New Zealand, or the UK, reverse the lefts and the rights mentioned above.

It would be best if you thought for the officer, the paramedic, the firefighter, the confused crash survivor, or whoever else may be standing or moving around on the highway’s edge.

What they are doing can be very demanding and stressful. It could be you or your family that they are helping or protecting, so give them the safety consideration they genuinely deserve, and don’t just assume they can devote 100% attention to your car coming down the road.

Photo courtesy of the AAA Foundation
Photo courtesy of the AAA Foundation

Remember that if a person (pedestrian or bicyclist) is struck by a car — your car — then if you are doing 20mph (32km/h), the person stands a good chance of surviving. If you are doing 30mph (48km/h), there is a strong probability that the person will die. And if you are doing 40mph (64km/h), the person’s chances of survival are almost nil. Please remember that next time, you must pass close by an officer or any other person standing on the shoulder.