What to Do When You See an Emergency Vehicle

Sirens, lights, cars around you changing speed and direction to get out of the way; every driver has seen his or her fair share of emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles include ambulances, fire engines and trucks, police cars, and privately-owned vehicles built for firefighters and life support agencies. In the case of an emergency, these vehicles sound their sirens and flash their lights to alert passerby to make room. Emergency vehicles need to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. They are allowed to bypass red lights, drive along shoulders and in the opposite direction, speed, and more to reach their destination in the shortest amount of time. All this must be done while maneuvering through traffic safely.

To help emergency vehicle drivers do their job, the general driving public must react appropriately when they see or hear one. Though specific laws may differ between states, the acronym “SIREN” is beneficial to know what to do in most situations:

Stay Alert. ** While this applies to driving in general, staying alert means keeping your eyes on the road and noise level within the car low enough to hear any potential sirens. If you do hear sirens or see an emergency vehicle, crack a window for better hearing and watch out for any pedestrians. **Investigate. Check all your mirrors to gauge the emergency vehicle’s approaching speed and decide on where and when to pull over. React. Use your best judgment to react quickly and calmly when pulling over. Look in all directions before doing so and be sure to use your turn signal. Don’t slam on your brakes or pull over without signaling. Enter. After the vehicle has passed, re-enter the road after looking in all directions, signaling, and gradually merging into traffic. Never. Do not ever stop where there isn’t enough room to pull off the road safely. Additionally, don’t follow an emergency vehicle to go fast or try to outrun one.

The above rules provide a basic outline of what’s expected of you as a driver. You should know what to do if you notice an emergency vehicle approaching behind you, in front of you, at an intersection, and when it’s stopped. Be aware of what to do in these 4 stated scenarios:

1. Emergency Vehicle Approaching from Behind

Slow down safely and check your surroundings when you become aware of an emergency vehicle approaching from behind you. Do not pull over immediately, even though that may be your initial reaction. You need to check for any pedestrians, cyclists, or other cars beforehand. Use your blinker to pull over once you find a clear path to the road’s shoulder. Do not rejoin traffic until there is room. Again, look for a space between cars and use your turn signal. Remember SIREN.

2. Emergency Vehicle Approaching in Front

Even when an emergency vehicle is coming from the oncoming lane, you typically still want to pull to the side of the road. Unless there’s a barrier between your direction and oncoming traffic, an emergency vehicle may drive on the wrong side off the road to move around dense traffic. Pulling over opens up your lane to emergency responders. Plus, you don’t want an emergency vehicle approaching from the front in the same lane as you for both your and the other driver’s safety.

Pull over with the same caution as you would with an emergency vehicle coming toward you from behind.

3. Emergency Vehicle Approaching While at an Intersection

Should you see an emergency vehicle near an intersection, your action depends on whether you are stopped or in motion. If you are stopped, and there is room to move over to the right side of the road, do so when safe. Otherwise, stay put. Even if your traffic light turns green, or it’s your turn to go at a stop sign, wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. They may be crossing in front of you, or use a center yellow lane (or “deadman’s lane”) to get around traffic.

If you are crossing an intersection when the emergency vehicle approaches from any direction, do not stop or pick up speed. Never stop in the middle of an intersection; continue through it, then safely pull over to the side of the road. Don’t drive faster to get through a green light or turn ahead of an emergency vehicle, or race after one to make the light.

4. Emergency Vehicle Stopped on Road

A stopped emergency vehicle usually continues flashing lights and is at the scene of an accident. Slow down and move over a lane if space is available. Some states require drivers to slow down to up to 20 mph below the speed limit. In general, reduce your speed enough for safe pulling over. Move with caution if traffic or other obstacles prevent you from shifting lanes. Your main concern is to give the emergency vehicle and its operators space to do their job.

What To Do When You See an Emergency Vehicle

When you see a police car, firetruck, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle coming from any direction, be on high alert for your next move. In addition to SIREN and the listed scenarios keep these tips in mind:

Stay approximately 300-500 feet behind an emergency vehicle; don’t follow after one. Use your hazard lights while pulled to the side of the road to alert other drivers. Check for any additional emergency vehicles approaching before pulling back onto the road. You may need to stay put for several to pass. Emergency vehicles are equipped to aid a variety of crises. Letting them get to their destinations as efficiently as possible may save a life.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,699)

Rating Summary
20,382
845
179
87
206
20,382
845
179
87
206

Matthew

33 years of experience
991 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.

Greg

22 years of experience
37 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!

LAVELL

27 years of experience
93 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

Brian

23 years of experience
483 reviews
Brian
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Make an Emergency Stop in Your Car
Every driver should know the best way to brake their car. If your car brakes go out, downshift to use engine braking to slow you down.
How to Create an Emergency Kit for Your Car
Driving Driving is safer than it ever has been before; and yet, you never know what might happen when you are driving. Your car can break down or experience a mechanical failure. You could get in an accident or injure...
How to Quickly Stop a Runaway Toyota Prius
The The Toyota Prius is a plug-in hybrid vehicle that uses a combination of a gas-powered engine and an electric motor to propel the vehicle. It is perhaps the most well-known hybrid vehicle on the market and has a loyal...

Related questions

Where is the spare tire?

The spare tire sits under the bed of the truck, at the very rear. It is easy to remove the spare tire with your hands. Just use the jack handle to winch the tire down and unhook it from the...

What should I do if I lose control?

Losing control of your vehicle can be frightening to say the least. If your vehicle begins to skid, there are three types of skidding it could be: The “braking skid” in which the wheels will not be rolling The...

How do I use the emergency flashers?

The emergency flashers are a very important safety and emergency feature. When you turn them on, all of your turn signals simultaneously flash, alerting surrounding drivers that you are in an emergency. To turn on the emergency flashers, press the...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com