Emergency Vehicles On The Road: What Am I Legally Required to Do?

Nov 7, 16 by Jorian Goes

Emergency Vehicles On The Road: What Am I Legally Required to Do?

When emergency vehicles come speeding towards you on California highways and streets, or when they’re on the side of the road, you need know what actions to take quickly without hesitation. Not taking the proper action can cost you in fines starting at $490.

According to California vehicle codes 21806 and 21809, upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle, you MUST yield the right-of-way, and you must move to the right-hand side curb, stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed. How soon do you need to stop? It’s very clear within the law, though it may be difficult to judge, not only while driving, but while the emergency vehicle is approaching or nearing your vehicle. The law states that you must yield right and stop when you can see the red lights flashing from a distance of 1000 feet from the front of the emergency vehicle (and yes, that means even if they’re behind you). This law includes not only emergency vehicles, but stationary tow trucks displaying flashing amber lights, and stationary marked DOT vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights (though, for tow trucks and DOT vehicles, you are not required to pull over to the right AND stop unless directed by a peace officer to do so).

This law isn’t really new but there so many drivers throughout the State of California that are unaware of the details of this law and its many names. CBS8.com reports it as “California’s little-known ‘Move Over’ Law” in this article, while the LAPD notes that the Sacramento Fire Department created and calls it the “Please Abide, Move Aside” program. The LAPD also provides some great tips on their website from the Sacramento Fire Department’s “Please Abide, Move Aside” program on what to do in various locations or situations so you can react quickly- we’ll break those down for you here:

At an Intersection:

If you hear a siren or see flashing lights at or when approaching an intersection, there are 4 actions you may need to take:

  • Stop at the limit line or crosswalk if facing a red tri-light signal.
  • Safely yield the right-of-way.
  • Wait for all emergency vehicles to pass before pulling back out on the road.
  • Emergency vehicles may have public address (loud speaker) systems- if they request you to move in a certain direction to clear the lane of traffic, do so quickly and safely.

2 things you shouldn’t do:

  • DON’T pull into the intersection on a red light.
  • DON’T stop in the middle of the intersection, blocking it.

On a Street:

If you hear a siren or see flashing lights on a street, there are 3 actions you may need to take:

  • Safely pull over to the right.
  • Slow down and stop, allowing for a safe passage of emergency vehicles.
  • Emergency vehicles may have public address (loud speaker) systems- if they request you to move in a certain direction to clear the lane of traffic, do so quickly and safely.

1 thing you shouldn’t do:

  • DON’T stop in the middle of the road.

On a Freeway:

If you hear a siren or see flashing lights on a freeway, there are 3 actions you may need to take:

  • Safely pull over to the right.
  • Continue to move forward at a safe speed.
  • Emergency vehicles may have public address (loud speaker) systems- if they request you to move in a certain direction to clear the lane of traffic, do so quickly and safely.

1 thing you shouldn’t do:

  • DON’T stop on the freeway

No matter what name you personally decide to call this law, we hope having these tips and information helps you to be able to quickly know what actions to take the next time an emergency vehicle is approaching, saving you the cost of a ticket from not having taken the right actions. Ticket Snipers is devoted to helping the drivers of California stay informed and safe. If you do get a ticket, we are always here to help.