“An ambulance is coming! What do I do?”: How to get out of the way of a vehicle with priority

You’re driving  your car when you hear a siren. You look in the rearview mirror and see that an ambulance is approaching at full speed. What should you do so as to let it pass and get to the hospital quickly? This something that figures in all the driving codes, and you probably already know the answer. But it never hurts to review it.

Ambulances (both public and private), firemen, police cars and civil protection vehicles are given priority as long as their lights are on. In 2018 it was decided that throughout Europe the emergency lights of all these vehicles should be blue. According to regulations, it’s enough for them to have their lights on for everyone to give them right of way, although they usually also sound their sirens. In addition, these vehicles with right of way are not obliged to obey traffic norms in an emergency, and can exceed the speed limit without being fined.

How to get out of the way of a vehicle with priority

When hearing the siren and seeing the blue lights in the rearview mirror, the first thing to do is not be nervous: keep going in the same direction and slowly reduce your speed.

According to the Spanish DGT (Directorate-General for Traffic), you should observe the traffic and try to move to one side, while signalling that maneuver. If that’s not possible, then keep calm and don’t make any surprise movements with your car or brake suddenly. And obey any instructions you might receive from the emergency personnel.

If you are driving on a two-way street, pull over to your right.

On roads with two lanes in each direction, the vehicles on the right will pull over to the right, while those on the left will pull over to their left.

On roads with three lanes in each direction, vehicles on the left will move to that side, while those in the right lane and in the center lane will move to their right. 

To make it even clearer, the Madrid 112 Agency of Safety and Emergencies has launched the  #Dejapaso (Give Way) campaign, with a video that explains what to do in the presence of emergency vehicles.

In the case of ambulances, it’s essential that they reach a hospital in a hurry, because in the first 60 minutes after an accident some 75% of injured people die. It’s what is known as the Golden Hour.

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