Tailing emergency vehicle could result in an accident

The first rule is not to panic when you hear sirens — and don’t move into the yellow lane to make way for emergency vehicles.
The first rule is not to panic when you hear sirens — and don’t move into the yellow lane to make way for emergency vehicles.
Image: Brian Witbooi

SA drivers have gained some notoriety for not always showing courtesy and respect to emergency vehicles.

“Not only is there little effort to clear a path for these vehicles, but some drivers tail emergency vehicles to skip the resulting traffic. The consequences of this can be far-reaching,” says Eugene Herbert, MD of advanced driver training company MasterDrive. 

Attitudes towards emergency vehicles may be due to confusion about the correct response, he says.

“The first rule is to not panic when you hear sirens. Do not stop abruptly or move out of the way recklessly, endangering yourself or other road users.

“Additionally, wait until you see where the emergency vehicle is coming from before making your decision about where to move. Rather carefully assess the situation before making an impulsive move.”

There are a number of other tips to keep in mind. “If there is space in the yellow lane, don’t move into this as it’s meant for emergency vehicles. Even if others block this lane, rather move to the right. Never skip a red light or stop sign to make way either. Don’t immediately move back into your position in case another emergency vehicle is following behind.”

SA road regulations also state it is illegal to not make way for emergency vehicles. “Finding yourself stuck in traffic as a result of a crash can be frustrating, but under no circumstances should you refuse to move out of the way. Not only could you be threatening someone’s life, but you are increasing the time it takes to reach the crash scene.

“Additionally, never follow behind an emergency vehicle that passes you. It requires following the vehicle much too closely to be safe. If they suddenly stop, as is likely, there will be no way to avoid a collision.”

Another bane of SA drivers’ existence is the blue-light brigade. “Many motorists are less inclined to give right of way to what they think are politicians rushing through traffic. Yet, the law states drivers must give way to vehicles displaying blue or red lights. Therefore, you are legally obliged to move out of the way.

“Also, drivers of these vehicles can be unforgiving to anyone who refuses to move. It’s simply not worth your safety to challenge these drivers,” says Herbert. “Rather allow them to pass and continue on your trip safely and without the aggravation of getting into a tussle with a blue-light-brigade driver. Drive nice, it’s contagious.”

X