How to Respond to Lights and Sirens on Emergency Vehicles

How to Respond to Lights and Sirens on Emergency Vehicles

by / Monday, 02 March 2020 / Published in Michigan Law, Motor Vehicle Accidents
Ambulance rushing through street

Emergency service workers like paramedics, police officers, and firefighters all have very hard jobs to do. But since a large part of their jobs involve spending time on the road and quickly responding to urgent, life-or-death situations, other drivers on the road can make their jobs even riskier.

Every year, tens of thousands of car crashes occur between regular passenger vehicles and police, fire, and other emergency vehicles nationwide. As of 2018, crashes involving fire trucks were so common that they were ranked the second highest cause of job-related fatalities for firefighters, killing even more firefighters than smoke, flames, and building collapses. It’s estimated that crashes involving police vehicles are even more common than ones involving fire trucks.

In many cases, these accidents occur because other drivers on the road are distracted and don’t see the emergency vehicle until it’s too late. But in some cases, drivers are unclear about how exactly they should respond to emergency vehicles.

According to the Michigan Vehicle Code, when drivers are approached by an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on, such as a police car, fire truck, or ambulance, they should pull over to the right side of the road (staying clear of intersections) and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed or once a police officer directs you to.

But what about if you approach an emergency vehicle that’s stopped by the side of the road, but has its lights on? In 2019, an expanded move over law went into effect in Michigan which requires drivers passing stationary emergency vehicles with their lights on to reduce their speed to 10 MPH below the posted speed limit and fully move over into the next lane so that workers have extra room to work safely. If you are unable to safely change lanes while passing a stopped emergency vehicle, you still need to slow down so that you pass it at 10 MPH below the speed limit.

Slowing down and giving emergency workers does a lot to protect those who are trying to work or help others on the side of the road. Michigan’s move over law applies to many different types of vehicles, not just traditional emergency vehicles. Under the law, drivers are required to slow down and move over for the following types of vehicles:

  • Police

  • Fire

  • Rescue

  • Ambulances

  • Road service vehicles

  • Road maintenance vehicles

  • Utility service vehicles

  • Solid waste haulers

  • Garbage trucks

  • Roadside assistance vehicles, including tow trucks and MDOT highway courtesy vehicles

Failing to properly react to emergency vehicles not only puts emergency workers at risk, it’s a violation of the law. If you don’t appropriately respond to an emergency vehicle, it’s considered a civil infraction. When it comes to the move over law for stopped emergency vehicles, drivers who violate the law may receive two points on their driver’s license and a $400 fine. However, if a driver’s failure to move over causes death or injury to an emergency worker, it’s considered a felony and the penalties are much more serious, including more expensive fines and potential time in prison.

When drivers ignore the rules of the road, it’s extremely easy for people to get hurt. If you’ve been injured in a car crash, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a car accident lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re highly experienced in helping the victims of Michigan car accidents recover the compensation they need. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / wsfurlan

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