Saturday’s Question

Today, a special visit from my friend, Happy Medic:

I was wondering if there is an ordinance or law about yielding to emergency vehicles with red light and siren activated. So many folks pull left, stop or begin to weave when I approach them with the lights and sirens on. Am I right in screaming at them that they’re disobeying the law?

This will not change whether or not I scream at people, just curious.


HM, what follows is direct from DMV‘s website:

Emergency Vehicles

You must yield the right of way to any police car, fire engine,ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive as close to the right edge of the road as possible and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) has passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then drive to the right as soon as you can and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loud speaker to talk to drivers blocking their path.

You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal by a traffic or police officer or a fire fighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws.

It is against the law to follow within 300 feet of any emergency vehicle which is answering an emergency call.

If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, accident, or other disaster you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, fire fighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel.

If you want the CVC section, read on…

Authorized Emergency Vehicles

21806. 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.

Amended Sec. 68, Ch. 1154, Stats. 1996. Effective September 30, 1996.

Long story short, yell away, my good man. As I’m sure you can attest, there are so many people who either just keep on a-drivin‘ or stop in the middle of the street or, and I’ll never understand this, pull to the left and stop. All the aforementioned fools pay dearly for their mistake…not an inexpensive fine.

And a personal postscript…thanks to Amanda for the reminder. Allergies are kicking my ass today and I’ve been walking around in a Claritin/Pollen induced haze. Still Saturday, though, so I’m good…

Also, I’ve got a few weeks of questions ready to roll, but I’m always looking for more. I save them all in my email folder and keep them on file, so feel free to submit them whenever you’d like!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

7 thoughts on “Saturday’s Question

  1. I have wondered this myself.

    I knew of the law to pull over to the right side of the road, but often wondered what to do if you're in the left hand turn lane at a red light. This happened to me once, I had a red light in a left hand turn lane, and a firetruck came up behind me and was blaring the horn. (I was also a fairly new driver so I wasnt sure what to do in that situation)… i pulled up as far as i could as i knew there was still people coming out into the intersection and if i made the left turn i would have been broadsided by some idiot not paying attention.

    Now i know to check the intersection and ignore the traffic signals, complete the turn and let the emergency vehicle pass.

    Thanks MC and HM for the question and answer!

  2. When I was a cop in CT many years ago, there was an interesting side to such a question. Volunteer firefighters — responding either to the scene or to the firehouse — used blue lights (similarly, volunteer EMTs used green lights). Although the lights were "courtesy" lights — requesting right of way rather than demanding it — and granted the operators no special legal privileges, operators of other vehicles could be (and were) cited for failure to yield to emergency vehicles. As I recall, there was nothing in the statutes about this, and no one really knew what the legal basis was. The prosecutor (DA, out there) didn't bat an eye when these came in, and he went out of his way to make sure the "offending" drivers either paid the fines or went to court (whereupon the judge usually banged the guy for twice the mail-in fine, plus costs).

    Of course, these citations were issued after the call, on the basis of a "presumed operation" law — the firefighter would note the plate number of the offending vehicle and give it to the cops, who would run the plate and issue the citation to the registered owner. It then became the owner's obligation to prove that he/she was not the driver at the time of the offense — what the lawyers call a "rebuttable presumption."

    I have no idea if this is still going on; I left the job twenty years ago (under the "Heart and Hypertension" law).

  3. The sad thing is, even though it is a law, in my state they aren't even teaching "pull to the right for sirens and lights" in drivers ed anymore. My brother went through it…not one word!

  4. I drive the freeway everyday and I am always amazed at the drivers who get behind a speeding ambulance and use that as an excuse to drive 130+ km / hour. Glad to hear it is illegal!

  5. Still one of my favorite sections to cite. I have been known to follow ambulances and fire rigs down Main Street just to get the people who don't yield, or those who pull out right behind and try to use the emergency vehicle as a sort of battering ram.

    I got to yell at a few folks just yesterday, thanks MotorCop for taking my question.

    I'll be sure to pass along your answer to every idiot I encounter in my giant flashing road hazard.

  7. Too bad you can't use heavy artillery to clear the way when morons won't move over and clear the road. I was raised to believe that "lights and siren" translate to "move it or lose it!", and have been known to drive up onto sidewalks to clear the way when necessary.

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