When it comes to emergency vehicles many drivers don’t know the law.
California vehicle code 21806 states:
Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:
(a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
(2) A person driving a vehicle in an exclusive or preferential use lane shall exit that lane immediately upon determining that the exit can be accomplished with reasonable safety.
(b) The operator of every street car shall immediately stop the street car, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
(c) All pedestrians upon the highway shall proceed to the nearest curb or place of safety and remain there until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
Even if there is a median separating you and the emergency vehicle on the opposite side of the road, you still have to pull over to the right.
“Sometimes based on traffic in front of us, we have to cross over to the other side, and drive on the opposite side of the road, driving into oncoming traffic,” Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station Traffic Sgt. David Shoemaker said.
Firefighter and paramedic Brian Clayton says the worst thing for someone to do when they’re approached is to just stop in the middle of the road. You’re not creating a solution, you’re creating a bigger obstacle for responders to get around.
“When you’re at a stop light, the light turns green and you have lights and sirens behind you, go through the intersection and clear it. If you have to drive ahead till you can pull over safely, do it,” Clayton said.
If you do find yourself freaking out and not knowing where to go, acknowledge that you know the emergency vehicles are there, use your blinkers and if possible make eye contact. Most responders will tell you what to do or where to go.
It’s important to remember that emergency vehicles aren’t there to mess up your day or cause a disruption.
“We’re going to help somebody and if we’re delayed in traffic, we’re being delayed to possibly saving someone’s life,” Shoemaker said.
“If it was your family member that we were going to help … you would want us to get there fast, efficient and safe,” Clayton said.
Remember these tips from Clayton: “Don’t freak out when you look around and you see lights and sirens right on your bumper. Just use your eyes, and use your mirrors. Be aware when you drive, and be vigilant. You’ll be a better driver.”