All’s well on the road. Then suddenly there are flashing blue lights bearing down on your rental car and you have a decision to make. What do you do next?
It doesn’t matter which of our five vehicle hire depots you rent from, chances are you’ll encounter an emergency vehicle during your time in one of our cars or vans. For many drivers, training or years of experience kick into gear and they’re easily and safely able to make way for the emergency vehicle as it approaches.
Yet for others, blue lights and sirens are a cause for panic and the Highway Code goes out of the window.
So what is the correct procedure?
Emergency vehicles – the right response
Rule 219 of the Highway Code is what you’ll need for this situation. It states:
“You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. When one approaches do not panic. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs” (bold text is our own emphasis).
Emergency vehicles – the wrong response
The rule goes on to list some of the things you should not do. These include:
- Stopping before the brow of a hill
- Endangering yourself or other road users
- Mounting the kerb
- Braking harshly
It’s the second one in that list that is rather open to interpretation, but a recent article in the Manchester Evening News helped clarify things. Endangering yourself or other road users could include:
- Entering a yellow box junction
- Breaking the law, speeding or outrunning an emergency vehicle
- Ducking into a bus lane (because you may get a fine or block emergency vehicles that may need to use it)
- Using the hard shoulder of a motorway (also because you may block emergency vehicles)
- Moving through a red light
Flashing blue lights means someone’s in trouble and it’s natural to want to respond, but the message from experts is that moving your rental vehicle out of the way should not come at the expense of your safety or that of other road users. What’s more, making the wrong – albeit well-intentioned – move could cost you a fine of up to £1,000.