By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018
Updated: December 9, 2021 at 10:42 am
Ever panicked seeing an ambulance or police car’s flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, or hearing the sound of their sirens blaring in the distance?
We wouldn’t go as far to say ‘rules were made to be broken’, but the law says you must do whatever you can to move out of the way – providing it’s safe to do so.
What the law says…
A driver mustn’t move into the path of an approaching emergency vehicle when their lights are flashing or sirens are activated.
If a driver finds themselves in the way, they must move as soon as they can safely do so. In fact, this requirement applies despite any other Australian Road Rule.
We take a look at three scenarios where the normal rules may not apply when an emergency vehicle has their lights or siren on.
1. Can I run a red light?
While red means stop, a motorist can enter the intersection to allow the ambulance to proceed if that’s the only option available and, of course, if it’s safe to do so.
Remember, it’s important to evaluate your safety in any such situation before moving into any oncoming traffic.
But, what happens if the intersection has a red light camera? You’ll probably be snapped, but it’s possible to challenge the photo if the emergency vehicle is also visible in the image.
A spokesperson for SA Ambulance said if you’re approaching an intersection with a red light, the best option is to stop beforehand so that ambulance has room to manoeuvre around you.
If in doubt, stop and remain stationary and the emergency vehicle will either work their way around you or wait until traffic starts moving again.
If you see an emergency vehicle approaching from any direction, stop and let the emergency vehicle through, even if you have a green light and your lane of traffic is moving freely.
2. Do I have to indicate when changing lanes to move out of the way?
When you’ve got flashing lights in your rear-view mirror or loud sirens blaring around you, it can be hard to think clearly and you might forget to flick your indicator on before moving into the other lane.
While the law states you must move out of the way as soon as it’s safe despite any other Australian Road Rule, RAA says using your indicators to signal your intention is vital – even more so during high pressure situations like this.
It’s never a good idea to cut other drivers off, but motorists in other lanes should do their best to let you squeeze in.
Did you know?
This is the penalty for obstructing an emergency vehicle
with flashing lights or when its sirens are activated.
Plus, a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and three demerit points.
3. Can I drive onto a median strip to move out of the way?
You can mount a median strip to get out of the way provided your vehicle can safely do so. That means it’s probably not the best idea if you drive a small car that’s not built for going over bumps like this.
Keep in mind ambulances often need to mount median strips themselves to manoeuvre their way around stationary traffic. In this case, don’t drive over the median strip, as you could obstruct their path.
Sometimes it will be better for motorists to stay put if there’s not an obvious safe area to move into.