Emergency vehicle // How do I react?

Tips on the safest way to react

Whether you’ve been driving for a few months or a few decades, odds are you’re still surprised when you look in your rearview mirror and see an emergency vehicle coming up on you from behind, lights flashing and sirens blaring as it weaves its way through traffic.

So... what should you do?

  • Stay calm. While your first instinct will no doubt be to immediately get out of the way, it’s best to think of your next move and alert others of your intentions (remember that the emergency vehicle driver can’t read your mind). Also make sure to check around you before making a move.
  • What about if you’re moving? The law specifies that you must slow down and move over to the right side of the road. If you can safely do so, stop your vehicle after having pulled over to the right.
  • What about if you’re stopped? Stay where you are.

We recommend that you also check out the tips from RPM+ and Tecnic regarding emergency vehicles (video) (in French only).

Of course, there can always be exceptions! This is why the most important “rule” may well be to stay alert to the signals and movements of any emergency vehicle in the vicinity. In addition to lights and sirens, emergency vehicle may also use their flashing lights to signal their intentions.

Another important point: always make sure you can hear any approaching or nearby emergency vehicles! This is but one of the reasons why driving with earphones in or on both ears is prohibited. Another more general reason is that you must be able to hear any other traffic noises in the general area. You should also avoid listening to the radio or music at an excessively high volume.

Do the same rules apply when a tow truck is nearby? According to the law, no. To make it easier to distinguish the two, remember that emergency vehicles have flashing red or blue lights, while those of tow trucks (which also don’t have sirens) are orange. And while you may not legally be required to adopt any particular behaviour with regard to tow trucks, it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous and make their job easier! The faster a tow truck can get to the scene, quicker the road will be cleared and traffic can resume.
Last thing: When you pass emergency or official vehicles that are stopped on the shoulder, remember to comply with the regulation concerning the safety corridor.

We recommend that you also check out the tips from RPM+ and Tecnic regarding safety corridors (video) (in French only).


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