Information provided by the Office of Emergency Services.
With the increase of road traffic in San Benito County, drivers are not reacting safely when an emergency vehicle approaches, according to an Office of Emergency Services press release.
From the cab of the fire engine, firefighters witness drivers stopping when a fire truck or ambulance approaches rather than pulling over to the right side of the road. They also witness drivers weave back-and-forth indecisively, or follow the emergency vehicle through an intersection to beat the traffic light.
Other mistakes drivers make include not looking out for a second emergency vehicle. After the first one goes by, drivers pull back onto the road and block additional emergency vehicles, the release said. Always proceed with caution because there may be other emergency vehicles coming.
The unsafe practices endanger the driver committing the improper act, any passengers in their car, other drivers in the area and emergency personnel in the responding vehicle.
It’s important to remember that emergency vehicles use their lights and sirens because they are responding to a call that could be a person having a heart attack, a fire in a home/business or a police emergency.
Emergency personnel are required by state law to complete annual training on the proper way to respond to calls using lights and sirens, and citizens can help make the emergency response of fire apparatus, ambulances and police vehicles safer.
The California Driver’s Handbook states: California law requires that you must YIELD the right-of-way to any police vehice, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then, drive to the right as soon as it is safe and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. California Vehicle Code 21806(A)(1).
California has a “Move Over and Slow Down” law requiring drivers to move over one lane if safe to do so, or slow down when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle or tow truck that’s displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a Department of Transportation (Caltrans) vehicle displaying emergency flashing or amber warning lights while stopped on the side of a highway or freeway, the press release states.
The law is designed to reduce the deaths of peace officers, tow truck drivers, paramedics, Caltrans employees and other emergency personnel who are aiding stranded or injured motorists, or involved in road work. The law’s intent is to establish a safety zone to protect police, firefighters, emergency personnel and utility workers.
According to the press release, the penalty for violating the “yield to emergency vehicles” or “Move Over Law” is a $500 fine and a one-point violation on the violator’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record.
While emergency personnel are trained to respond quickly and safely using the vehicle’s emergency warnings lights and sirens, they need the public’s help. When residents drive and see an emergency vehicle approaching, give them a break. Help them get there faster by pulling to the right and bringing your vehicle to a complete stop.