Motorist Safety

Motorists: Moving to the Right & Stopping for Emergency Vehicles

There is one simple thing everyone can do to help firefighters and other emergency personnel provide assistance as quickly as possible - move to the right for sirens and lights.

Every year in the U.S, there are almost 16,000 collisions involving fire department emergency vehicles responding to or returning from incidents. These collisions result in over 1,000 firefighter injuries and almost fifty deaths.

Many people panic or simply don’t adhere to the rules of the road when approaching emergency vehicles. The law is very specific: drivers must yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle, and failure to do so can cause serious accidents or delays in ambulances, fire engines and fire trucks arriving at the scene of an emergency.

Firefighters are careful to avoid vehicle collisions by driving slowly when traveling against traffic or coming to a complete stop at intersections. However, the cooperation of all vehicles on the road is essential.

What to Do / What Not to Do

Here are simple rules to follow when you encounter an emergency vehicle while driving down the road:


  • Stay calm.
  • Pull to the right and come to a complete stop.
  • If you’re traveling on a high-speed road or if there is no room to stop, slow down as much as possible.
  • If you are in the left lane, safely pull over into the right lane as traffic in the lane to your right moves over.
  • If you cannot move to the right because of another vehicle or obstacle, just stop. Your action will let the driver of the emergency vehicle know what you are doing and help him/her anticipate where to drive.
  • When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind while you are stopped at an intersection, stay where you are unless you can pull safely to the right.
  • On a four-lane highway or street without barriers, both sides of traffic should pull to the right.
  • Be careful when driving by or around a motor vehicle accident or any situation where emergency vehicles are parked and the firefighters are working.
  • If driving a car, stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.


  • Panic
  • Play your radio so loudly you are unable to hear sirens.
  • Stop in the middle lane when there is room to pull to the right.
  • Pull to the left in the center lane or left turn lane.
  • Race ahead to make the green light or turn before the emergency vehicle gets there.
  • Turn quickly to the left onto a street or into a driveway.
  • Drive through a red light or stop sign when an emergency vehicle approaches from behind.
  • If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite direction of a divided highway or street, you do not need to pull over.
  • Don’t disregard the presence of the emergency vehicle by continuing to drive.