Perspective Newsletter

The right way to get out of the way for emergency vehicles


​​Road Rules 101​​​​​Whoooop! Whoooop! Whoooop! An emergency vehicle is approaching fast. Sure, you know to pull to the right shoulder and stop when you're on a two-lane road. But would you know the right way to get out of the way in these trickier situations?

  1. You're stopped for a red light on a three-lane road (one lane in each direction, plus a center turn lane). You see an emergency vehicle with sirens and lights coming up behind you. Do you:
    1. inch as far as you can to the right?
    2. swing in to the center turn lane to let the vehicle pass?
    3. pull through the red light and turn so the emergency vehicle can go by?
    4. stay put and do nothing?

    Got your answer? Now try this one.

  2. You're in the far left lane on a four-lane, one-way street, getting ready to merge on the freeway. An emergency vehicle with sirens and lights roars up in your lane. Do you:
    1. pull over to the left shoulder (since it's the closest) and stop to let the vehicle pass?
    2. pull as far to the right as you can and stop if it's safe to do so?
    3. continue on without stopping?
    4. stop in your lane where you are?

    OK, last one:

  3. You're traveling on a divided highway and an emergency vehicle approaches you in the opposite direction. Do you:
    1. pull as far to the right as you can and stop?
    2. continue on without stopping?
    3. stop in the lane where you are?

Ready to see how you did, according to Washington and Oregon state laws? You're right if you answered:

Question 1, A; and Question 2, B. You'd pull to the right in both cases. Swinging out to the left lane or shoulder (even if it seems like the closest, easiest way to get out of the way) invites a collision with the emergency vehicle, which will attempt to pass on the left. If there's no shoulder or open lane on the right, inch over to the right side of your lane as best you can until the emergency vehicle passes.

And remember, before moving right, always use your signal to tell the emergency vehicle driver and other motorists what you're about to do.

Question 3, B. In this case, continue on without stopping. On a divided highway, you don't need to pull right and stop for an emergency vehicle that's headed in the opposite direction.

Now that you know, try to stump your friends! And if you have a Road Rule you think we should feature, please share it with us.

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