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How to drive when blue light vehicles want to pass

How to drive when blue light vehicles want to pass


Here, we summarise some of the key points to keep in mind next time you’re required to let an emergency services vehicle through.

How to drive when emergency vehicles need to get past

Looking in your rear-view mirror to find an emergency vehicle haring up towards you expecting to be let past is often a nerve-wracking experience, even for the most well-seasoned of drivers. 

However, given that this is something encountered by many motorists, GEM Motoring Assist has issued some advice for drivers which has been developed through conversation with both emergency services and Highways England. 

man driving a car

GEM chief executive Neil Worth said:

We know that most people want to help a ‘blue light vehicle’ but that they can be taken by surprise and they don’t always understand what ‘doing the right thing’ is. We are confident that these tips will help learners become more confident because there will be less confusion in situations where an emergency vehicle needs their help. If confusion is reduced, then so is risk.

Here, we summarise some of the key points to keep in mind next time you’re required to let an emergency services vehicle through. 

police cars in a row

Stay calm and look for somewhere safe to pull in

There’s no point in immediately stopping in the road with no way for an emergency vehicle to pass - this will only hold them up. It’s a far better idea to keep calm and look for somewhere safe to pull in. 

If you’re approaching the brow of a hill then keep going as stopping on a crest and forcing an emergency vehicle to pass on the wrong side of the road over a blind summit is extremely dangerous. GEM also suggest that you keep out of bus lanes and avoid mounting kerbs or stopping near traffic lights - drivers should also not go through a red light in order to allow a vehicle past. 

emergency vehicles

What about when you’re approaching a roundabout?

If you’re coming up to a roundabout, then keep a close eye on the approaching vehicle in your mirrors. How it is positioned in the lane and which way it is indicating should give a clear idea of where it wants to go - and you can then position yourself accordingly. 

However, if you’ve already stopped at the roundabout, move to the side so you can give the emergency vehicle enough space to get through. Don’t drive into a roundabout if it isn’t safe to do so, though. 

On the motorway

When traffic is free flowing on the motorway when an emergency vehicle is approaching, you should move to the left when it is safe to do so. An emergency vehicle will only pass you on the right. 

However, when traffic is stationary, emergency vehicles will likely use a hard shoulder to bypass the traffic.

In instances when there is no hard shoulder, however, drivers and the left and middle lanes should move left, while those in the rightmost lane should move right. By doing so, it creates an ‘emergency corridor’ for vehicles to safely drive along. These corridors should be maintained in case another vehicle comes along too. 

Remember, though, that it’s illegal to use a lane with a ‘red X’ above it on a smart motorway. If you see one of these, move over as soon as possible - even if you can’t see an incident ahead. Emergency vehicles rely on these lanes being clear to reach an accident as quickly as possible, so it’s paramount that they’re kept clear. 

Rolling road block

From time to time, police or motorway patrols will implement a ‘rolling road block’. This is when a motorway patrol vehicle or police car slows the traffic by driving slowly with its lights flashing. Often, they’ll have illuminated instructions such as ‘Don’t pass’ displayed in the rear window, too. 

Follow the instructions and stay behind this vehicle. Sometimes, these emergency vehicles will bring the traffic to a complete halt if required. However, they’ll pull to the left and indicate for you to go ahead when the incident has been cleared. 

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