We recently covered the pull-over rules for when you see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle in your rearview. The column presumed the flashing lights were just trying to get through.
But what if they’re coming for you?
“My understanding is that you move to the right and if the emergency vehicle, usually WSP, follows your move you continue safely changing lanes to the right until you can come to a safe stop at a safe location on the right side of the freeway,” wrote Chris Mann, of Marysville.
But that’s not always what happens, he noted.
“Many times I see vehicles pulled over on the left side of the freeway,” Mann said. “This is dangerous for all concerned, including the other road users, not only for the duration of the stop but also when the stopped vehicles attempt to merge back into the left lane traffic flow.”
Washington State Patrol trooper Heather Axtman said Mann is correct.
“It’s the law to go right,” she wrote, citing RCW 46.61.210, the same law that comes into effect if you’re just letting them pass through.
So what if there’s no good place to pull over to the right?
“Typically, a trooper will try to activate their lights when there is a shoulder available. So in theory if the person pulls over as soon as they see our lights then it would be a place that we have deemed safe,” Axtman said. “If the person doesn’t feel comfortable pulling over, they can pull to the farthest right lane and activate their emergency flasher lights — that way we know they acknowledge us — and pull over as soon as practical.”
For further advice on what to do when you’re pulled over, I turned to AAA Washington, which offers the following tips:
– Communicate to the officer that you see them and that you’re pulling over – blinker, wave, etc.
– Pull over carefully in a safe location well away from traffic.
– Put your vehicle in park and remove your foot from the brake.
– Remain in the vehicle, unless otherwise instructed.
– Turn off any audio or radio.
– Roll down your window.
– Keep your safety belt fastened.
– At night, turn on your interior light.
Be considerate that an officer must assume that every traffic stop could be a threat to their safety. Do what you can to show yourself as a low risk:
– Keep your hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2.
– Allow the officer to start the conversation and follow their requests.
– Answer all questions truthfully.
– Be patient as they learn who you are.
– Reach for your license and proof of insurance only when asked.
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