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Yielding to Emergency Vehicles

Moving Over for Emergency Vehicles

Minimum response time by emergency vehicles is absolutely essential. Precious minutes lost while enroute to an emergency could be the difference between life and death.

It is the concern of all Emergency Services that response time be minimized.

The biggest problem is getting emergency vehicles to the scene of an emergency ... especially in densely populated urban centres and during peak traffic periods.

To accomplish this, extremely sophisticated communications systems are in place, emergency vehicles are better equipped and the training of emergency services personnel is continually being upgraded.  London Fire vehicles are equipped with Opticom strobe lights which help responding apparatus to obtain green lights on the way to an alarm.

What the Law Requires

Provincial law requires you to yield to emergency vehicles. PULL RIGHT AND STOP is normally what you need to do.

Specifically, the driver of a vehicle, upon the approach of an ambulance, fire or police department vehicle or public utility emergency vehicle upon which a bell or siren is sounding or upon which a lamp located on the roof of the vehicle is producing intermittent flashes of red light, shall immediately bring such a vehicle to a standstill,

(a) as near as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway and parallel therewith and clear of any intersection; or

(b) when on a roadway having more than two lanes for traffic and designated for the use of one-way traffic, as near as practicable to the nearest curb or edge of the roadway and parallel therewith and clear of any intersection.

This page illustrates some of the traffic situations encountered by emergency vehicles and informs drivers what to do in that situation.

Divided Highways/One-Way Traffic

Many times, in rush hour traffic, an emergency vehicle is blocked on a four-lane divided roadway. Drivers often don't pull over or, without thinking, pull over and completely block the shoulder. If all the lanes are blocked, the emergency vehicle can travel down the shoulder -- let the emergency vehicle through. The law states that on a one-way road, motorists can either pull to the right or left before stopping. Make your decision quickly, but use common sense. Keep the side open that the emergency vehicle is travelling on. Remember... don't pull clear to the right or left if that shoulder may be the emergency vehicle's only route. The intent of the law is to provide a clear path for the emergency vehicle.

Emergency Vehicles Leaving their Stations

Motorists frequently fail to pull to the right and stop for fire trucks and ambulances that are trying to pull out of their stations. These few seconds can mean the difference between life and death in the case of an emergency. The law requires you to pull to the right and yield to an emergency vehicle, even before it gets on the road. Be alert. When you see that a fire vehicle or ambulance is coming out of its station, pull to the right and stop.     

Heavy Rush Hour Traffic

Motorists quite often refuse to pull to the right and stop because they are in heavy rush hour traffic. The emergency vehicle then becomes trapped behind them. In heavy traffic on an undivided roadway, motorists in both directions must pull as close to the right hand curb as possible, allowing the emergency vehicle to proceed through the centre. The law states that traffic in both directions must pull to the right and stop. When they do, there is room for the emergency vehicle to pass safely.      

Turning Left in Front of Emergency Vehicles

ABORT ALL PROPOSED TURNS ... By refusing to abort a left turn, a motorist can obstruct the path of an emergency vehicle. Some motorists even make left turns across the path of an emergency vehicle which is coming up from behind in what are normally the oncoming traffic lanes. Motorists are obligated by law to check what is behind them before making a left turn. Left turns must always be aborted in an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind. The motorist should actually proceed straight through the intersection, then pull to the right and stop.