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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Do You Know How to Deal with Emergency Vehicles?

By Catherine Powell

You see them racing down the road or parked at the scene of an accident, their flashing red or blue lights eerily illuminating the area. What’s even scarier for most drivers is to hear a siren only to see flashing lights barreling toward them.  Regardless of whether you see or hear the approach of an emergency vehicle, you need to know how to safely deal with them.  Do you know what to do when you’re on the road and see flashing lights or hear a siren scream?  Take the test below to see how you rate.

      1.      When you see flashing lights should you slow down, stop or pull over?
When any emergency vehicle approaches yours, you are required to pull to the edge of the roadway to allow the vehicle to pass. 

      2.      Are police cars, fire trucks and ambulances the only vehicles you need to yield the right of way?
No, other vehicles you need to cede the right of way to include other law enforcement vehicles, road work trucks and tow trucks, provided they have their flashing lights activated.

3.      If you see a parked emergency vehicle, should you stop?  
No.  Unless the roadway is blocked, you are required to move over, slow down and pass the emergency vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so.  Rubbernecking not only makes it hard for the emergency responders on the scene to do their job, it makes it much harder for other emergency vehicles to reach the scene. On the highway, you are required to move over one lane before passing a stationary emergency vehicle that has its lights flashing.

      4.      What if it isn’t safe to move over a lane before passing a parked emergency vehicle?
If you’re unable to safely change lanes, you need to slow down and proceed with caution.

      5.      Is it safe to run a red light to keep from boxing in an emergency vehicle?
In Florida the answer is yes, provided there’s no traffic coming your way and you can safely turn right on red. In all other situations, the answer is no.

      6.      What should you do if an emergency vehicle approaches from the opposite direction? 
Pull to the side of the road and come to a complete stop until the vehicle or vehicles pass yours.    

      7.      Is it safe to pull over in an intersection to allow an emergency vehicle to pass?
No, it’s never advisable to block an intersection, not even for an ambulance, a fire truck or a police car.  If you can’t stop before an intersection, you should continue across it before pulling to the side of the road.

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      8.      How far from an emergency vehicle is it safe to park?
You are required by law to park at least 500 feet from any official vehicle that is dealing with an emergency.  This is to give those dealing with the situation room to work, as well as room to allow other official vehicles into and out of the area.

      9.      What is the minimum safe distance to follow an emergency vehicle?
You are required by law to allow a minimum distance of 500 feet between you and any emergency vehicle that has its flashing lights and siren on.  This buffer zone is intended to protect motorists and emergency responders in case the emergency vehicle is forced to hit its brakes or swerve to avoid other traffic.

      10.  Can you get a ticket for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle? 
Yes.  According to Florida statute 318, a driver who fails to yield to an emergency vehicle may be issued one or more moving violations.

      11.  When is it safe to pass a moving emergency vehicle? 
It’s never safe to pass a moving emergency vehicle that has its lights and siren on.  To do so risks a collision for both you and the emergency vehicle.

      12.  What color are police emergency lights in Florida? 
If you see flashing blue lights, this designates the vehicle as belonging to local law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Department or the Florida Highway Patrol.

      13.  What color are the lights of ambulances?
Florida Statute 316.2397(3) requires ambulances to sport flashing red warning lights, regardless of whether they are owned privately or by a municipality.

      14.  What color of flashing lights designates a fire truck?
Fire departments in Florida are required to exhibit red lights in emergency situations.  This also includes vehicles driven by volunteer firefighters who are responding to a call.

      15.  What kind of vehicles display flashing or rotating amber lights?
In Florida, tow trucks responding to a call by law enforcement may exhibit a flashing or rotating amber light. So too may municipal maintenance vehicles and vehicles tasked with escorting mobile homes, cement, steel and other oversized structures.

How did you do?  Since each question is worth 6.66 points, you got an A if you only got one wrong, a B if you missed up to 3 and a C if you missed 4.  Beyond that and you need to reread this blog to make sure you know how to deal with emergency vehicles of all kinds.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. When I was an EMT, it amazed me how many drivers would pass our ambulance even when it was rolling Code 3 to an emergency.

  2. This is really great info. I don't know how many times I have been in several of the above mention situation and wasn't sure what to do. Thanks.


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