We are a confident bunch on what to do when we hear blaring sirens and see flashing lights in the rearview mirror. But do we actually know what to do when emergency vehicles approach?
Maybe not so much.
An insurance company took a poll. Nearly 9 out of 10 drivers in Washington and Oregon said you bet, we totally know what to do… But not everyone was right when they offered their how-to.
About three-quarters gave the correct answer on what to do when an emergency vehicle approaches from behind: slow down and move over to the right.
Fewer knew what to do when approaching an emergency vehicle on a call, like a trooper who’s pulled someone over on a roadway shoulder.
“While most Northwest drivers feel confident they know what to do around emergency vehicles, some may be surprised to know they can be pulled over for failing to make the proper move,” added PEMCO spokesman Derek Wing. “And the penalties for these violations can carry some hefty fines, too.”
So let’s go over the rules.
For that, we turn to the Washington State Patrol’s “Rules of the Road” page (www.wsp.wa.gov/driver/rules-of-the-road).
When an emergency vehicle is approaching, every driver must yield the right of way and move to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway. (Don’t hang out in an intersection.) Remain there until the emergency vehicle has passed or a police officer directs you otherwise.
A fine for breaking these rules can run you $1,062.
The state’s official “move over” law is at RCW 46.61.210.
As for the other direction — when approaching the scene of those blaring sirens or flashing lights? This is called “an emergency zone,” and it comes with its own special rules.
An emergency zone is the adjacent lanes of the roadway 200 feet before and after a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that has activated its lights, sirens or both.
This could be a traffic stop, or a crash, or even a stalled vehicle.
That “authorized emergency vehicle” includes more than your expected police cruiser, fire engine or ambulance. Tow trucks and other vehicles providing roadside assistance also are part of the emergency zone club. (That includes Washington State Department of Transportation Incident Response Team vehicles.)
So what to do?
– On a road with two or more lanes going the same direction, move into another lane.
– On a two-lane roadway, yield to oncoming traffic and then pass at a safe distance to the left.
– If changing lanes or passing isn’t possible or unsafe, then slow down.
The fine for failing to slow down or move over can cost double that of a speeding ticket.
Find the legalese at RCW 46.61.212.
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