Emergencies happen every day, and when they do, everyone relies on emergency vehicles to get the help they need as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s essential to know the road rules for sharing with them because they can be unpredictable and dangerous.
However, these can be confusing, especially to out-of-state drivers, because the laws vary from state to state. So, here’s a comprehensive guide on what you need to know to safely share the road with emergency vehicles in California.
California’s Laws for Sharing the Road With Emergency Vehicles
According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21055, emergency vehicles, including police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, etc., are exempt from following the traffic laws while responding to and during emergencies as long as they have their red lights and sirens on.
However, just because they can break the law doesn’t mean you should too. There are still some basic rules for giving way to emergency vehicles and the penalties for ignoring them, such as:
Illegal not to yield
It is illegal in California not to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle approaching with its lights and sirens on based on CVC 21806. If you don’t give way to an emergency vehicle in California, you could be fined $490 and receive a point on your DMV driving record.
Illegal to follow too closely
In California, it is also illegal to follow an emergency vehicle closer than 300 feet (ca. 91 meters) based on CVC 21706. This rule applies when the emergency vehicle moves and stops with its lights and sirens on. If you get caught violating this law, you could be fined $238 and given a point on your DMV driving record.
How Should Motorists Give Way to Emergency Vehicles?
In California, drivers must yield the right-of-way to any authorized emergency vehicle sounding a siren, flashing red lights, or both. When an emergency vehicle approaches, drivers should:
Step 1: Immediately pull over to the side of the road and come to a complete stop. But never stop in an intersection; instead, continue through and stop on the right side of the road.
Step 2: Wait until the emergency vehicle passes before getting back on the road because it might have to swerve around you.
Step 3: Move into a lane that does not have any other vehicles in it unless you are required to take an exit or cross a bridge before it is safe to do so.
Step 4: Always be aware of your surroundings and look for emergency vehicles, even when you don’t see them approaching.
Step 5: Keep calm, focus on your surroundings, and follow all traffic rules to help ensure your safety, other motorists, and emergency responders as they work.
As long as you follow these steps and remain alert, you’ll be able to share the road with emergency vehicles safely. So, always remember to stay alert, be courteous when emergency vehicles are around, and never try to outrun or get in the way of emergency responders.
If you encounter another accident while getting out of the way of emergency vehicles, or if you get into an accident yourself, contact Haffner Law. We’re an insurance and personal injury law firm in Los Angeles that can help you get proper compensation. Fill out the form to schedule a free consultation.