How to deal with emergency vehicles

Emergncy vehicles on driving test

Correctly reacting to emergency vehicles can be extremely stressful, regardless of how long you’ve been driving. This is increased for learner drivers, who under pressure, may not react correctly. The steps include; acknowledging the vehicle, assessing your situation, assessing the situation of the emergency vehicle, and finally taking action.

Acknowledging the emergency vehicle

This can often be more difficult than it seems. Sirens are usually used by these vehicles to provide an audible method of detection. Yet as sounds tend to reverberate, especially in areas of dense buildings, it can be difficult to know exactly where the vehicle is. It’s best to switch off any music and take 360° observations around your vehicle to try and locate it.


The most common type of emergency light you’re most likely to encounter would be a blue flashing light, typically used by the police, ambulance, or fire brigade. You may also see a green flashing light which would be a doctor on emergency call. Other frequent lights used may be amber which is usually for breakdown vehicles or signify a hazard.

Assessing your situation

The most important thing to remember is not to panic. It’s not uncommon to see unprepared drivers running red lights or mounting pavements to make way for the emergency vehicle. Yes, the vehicle may save a life, but it’s important to ensure your safety as well as the other ordinary vehicles around you. Furthermore, you will not be excused for breaking traffic laws in order to make way for flashing blue light. This includes entering bus lanes or moving past stopping lines when the lights are red.

It may be run these questions in your head, if I stop here can the emergency vehicle pass me safely? If not, how can I move out of the way legally without endangering other drivers? Or shall I continue driving at the speed limit and find a safe position to stop further ahead.

You should also consider the course of the emergency vehicle, it’s best to avoid pulling over near to a hill, bend or a narrow section of the road. As this may cause issues for other cars and the emergency vehicle itself to pass.

Some of the time, you may not need to stop at all. On straight level roads, if an emergency vehicle is coming up behind you, move over to the left-hand lane and slow down, simply allowing the vehicle to pass you. Stopping unnecessarily, especially on fast roads may cause issues and can be potentially dangerous to other cars which haven’t noticed the vehicle.

Taking action

In busy urban roads, the situation where there is simply nowhere to move may occur. If you are holding up the emergency vehicle, you can consider mounting the kerb. Although this should only be done if you’ve given yourself enough time to assess the situation and there’s no other option. Furthermore, the pavement must be clear of any pedestrians or other obstacles. You can take action by taking advanced driving lessons from DTC Driving Test Services.

Duel Carriageways / Motorways

Move over to the left-hand lane if possible, by signalling and changing lane safely. Avoid using the hard shoulder as this can be used by emergency vehicles themselves during traffic.


If you are entering a major road from a minor road and you hear the siren, exiting now could be unwise. As you may impede the progress of the emergency vehicle. It’s also possible to misjudge their speed as they can often travel in excess of the speed limit. Sometimes, there may be more than the one vehicles, therefore, never exit the junction until you’re certain all is clear.

Solid White Lines

Where there are a continuous solid line on your side of the road or both sides, it signifies that you are not allowed to cross the lines. Under this scenario, the emergency vehicle also cannot overtake. Keep driving until you find a safe place to pull over to allow the vehicle to pass you. If this isn’t possible, keep within the speed limit until the vehicle finally gets a chance to overtake. It’s likely that the vehicle will switch off their siren and remain behind you if they cannot overtake you.


On approach to a roundabout, it’s best to stop and allow the emergency vehicle to enter the roundabout before you.

Overall, there’s a large number of scenarios where you may encounter an emergency vehicle. However, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. Take deep breaths and examine your situation. This will allow you to make the correct course of action and will allow the vehicle to pass you safely and quickly. For more brilliant tips, visit our YouTube Channel

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