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It's important to yield to emergency vehicles

POSTED July 5, 2012 8:25 a.m.
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Public safety vehicles traveling to emergencies with red lights and siren ("code three") are such common events that some motorists ignore the requirement to yield, pull over to the right and stop. What these motorists are thinking is anyone's guess, but it may be that they have become desensitized because code three runs are seen most anytime a motorist takes to the road. The public safety personnel who are responding to emergencies are quite concerned about the frequency of motorists failing to yield, since they are doing their best to provide emergency assistance to the people needing it. Not only that, but failing to yield places the emergency crews at risk, as well as other motorists. A stern reminder about this issue is warranted to obtain better compliance from motorists.

The California Vehicle Code section that requires people to yield to emergency vehicles is very straightforward and it leaves little or no discretion to motorists. According to Section 21806, "...the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed." When traffic is gridlocked and motorists are unable to move, for example at a busy, red-light intersection, it is best to stay put unless the emergency response team requests you do otherwise. Be sure not to pull into an intersection against a red light and do not panic.

Even when the emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, motorists are required to pull to the right and stop. In some freeway conditions where there is an impassable physical barrier between the opposite [direction] lanes, it may be impractical to pull to the right, but technically, the law does not make an exception for this particular situation.

Keep in mind that when there is one emergency vehicle, there usually are more to follow. So, it is important to proceed very carefully once it has passed by. Be sure to listen and look carefully before commencing driving, listening with an open window is advisable.

Playing loud music in your car can make it difficult to hear sirens. If a person fails to hear an approaching emergency vehicle because of loud music, they face the possibility of being cited for both the failure to yield and loud music violations. If the aforementioned negligence leads to a collision with injuries or death, the penalties will be severe and can include one or more points against the driving record along with fines, fees and penalties that can reach close to $500.

Emergency vehicles respond to emergencies without delay and use lights and sirens to alert those sharing the road with them as they travel. During every hour of every day, life-threatening events occur such as traffic collisions with serious injuries, drownings, medical emergencies, police officers and emergency responders requesting immediate assistance, etc. The delays caused by inattentive or disobeying motorists can make the difference between life and death for the people needing emergency assistance.

The trip responding to emergencies are critically dangerous for the emergency crews and other motorists as well. And as our roadways become more congested, the problems will grow even worse. Keep in mind that the next life-threatening emergency may be that of your own, or one of your loved ones. Surely, you would want all motorists to make certain that their actions do not impede the responding personnel. Always be attentive, drive safely and yield to emergency vehicles so they can respond as quickly as possible to assist our citizens.
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