Most drivers don’t realise that they can incur fines for not moving out the way of emergency services vehicles. Many are also unaware that overzealous local authorities are ready and willing to fine them if they move out of the way and end up somewhere they shouldn’t.
This week, GEM Motoring has launched its Blue Light Aware campaign to highlight how to make way for emergency services safely and effectively – and without doing something that will result in a fine.
Local authorities can fine you up to £60 if you enter a bus lane to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle (falling to £30 if you pay within 14 days). In addition, some London councils can charge a whopping £130 for driving through a red light or moving into a box junction to let an ambulance or other emergency services vehicle past.
Councils usually issue these fines based on CCTV camera images, although it is not unheard of for the emergency services to take down an offending vehicle’s registration. GEM highlights that appealing a traffic violation using moving aside for emergency services as your defence is unlikely to get you very far.
Are fines a deterrent?
Interestingly, a survey of 18,000 AA members in 2015 suggests that the threat of a fine doesn’t deter most motorists. In fact, only 13% would refuse to enter a yellow box junction to allow rescue services past.
The survey also found that 48% of drivers would happily run a red light and 31% would be willing to exceed the speed limit to aid emergency services, despite laying themselves open to potential police prosecution.
Additionally, 39% of drivers said they weren’t concerned about being penalised if it helped someone in distress. This involves “not worrying” about bus lanes, red lights, box junctions, speed limits, or pulling on to a pavement to let emergency crews past.
In the GEM Blue Light Aware campaign video (see below), GEM states that motorists should strive to avoid bus lanes, red lights, sudden braking, pulling over onto pavements and pulling over in spaces where it isn’t safe or legal to do so:
“It’s much better to let emergency services find their own way around us. Leave the bus lanes and red traffic lights to them.”
Although many of us struggle to stay calm when we hear a siren approaching, the Highway Code states that you should not panic and should consider the best route for the vehicle to take before acting. It goes on to say that you should not “endanger yourself, other road users or pedestrians and avoid mounting the kerb at all costs.”
It seems clear to us that the current system leaves motorists with no perfect option: either don’t pull over and risk delaying the emergency services (which are potentially on the way to save someone’s life) or pull over (potentially endangering the lives of yourself and others around you) and risk incurring a fine.
Would you risk a fine to stay where you are and obstruct emergency services, or move aside and risk a fine for breaking traffic rules? Let us know in the comments below.
I think the answer to this lies with the emergency services. If they come to a situation where motorists cannot move out of the way for legal reasons (e.g. by crossing a line to a red light or entering a bus lane etc.), then SIRENS should be switched off. Failure to do so causes embarrassment and is intimidating to those causing the “obstruction”.
Most drivers are sufficiently decent/humanitarian to want to help those needing urgent medical attention/support and will take the risk. Quite why trying to help someone in need of help should be considered a criminal offence is a question the Authorities need to answer- sensibly and compassionately (you’ll be lucky!). I wonder how they would feel if the delayed Emergency Vehicle was on he way to them….
What a ridiculous situation! If you don’t pullover the emergency vehicles may not be able to get round you as I experienced only a couple of weeks ago. Even a minute delay could result in someone not getting the assistance they may need in an emergency. If people are going to be at risk of fines even less people are likely to pull over potentially risking lives and causing chaos. The traffic people need to sort this out soon!
Yes, onto the pavement checking there are no pedestrians first, definitely into a bus lane but checking first that the emergency service isn’t in it. As regards running a red light, I’d turn left to get out of the way even if that wasn’t my original route.
If I was in the ambulance or in need of the police or fire service, I hope others would too.
If there is a bus lane, let the emergency vehicle use it. No need to use it yourself.
And what if you are between the ambulance and bus lane ?
It should be part of the written driving test ,how best to help emergency services but as with most drivers they forget what they are taught .It would help some drivers if they could buy a vehicle without indicators and lights as they are rarely used or used incorrectly.There are very few parking restriction lines in residential areas but we know there is no parking within 10 meters of a junction or next to a lowered kerb.To assume drivers are being courteous will not be right in most cases ,it will be panic.I have seen many services held up by drivers pulling in or slowing down the best way is to drive as normal as possible and think that service drivers are trained to avoid you and it is not personally at you when their lights are flashing and siren blasting .
If you move aside as safely as possible to let emergency services do their job, then you should not have to be prosecuted as this a valid reason for ones action.LEGISLATION NEEDS TO BE INTRODUCED SO THAT ONE IS IMMUNE TO PROSECUTION if you are acting in the interest of helping the emergency services do their job.
THIS WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM!
The general consensus is to move aside for emergency vehicles. Drivers are not stupid to drive through a red light blindly, but will make sure it is safe to do so.
It is the greedy councils who have NO interest in ‘saving a life’ but only interested in the £’s. The law should be changed that giving way to emergency vehicles is not liable for any fine/points.
Personally, (although I would want to give way) if I am going to get fined/points on my licence, which is going stay on my licence for 3 years, I will NOT move.
It may sound heartless, but if the councils do not give a toss, why should I.
There are numerous times in my driving experience where mounting a kerb was necessary. Oncoming lorry passing 200 yard long line of parked cars was only the other week.
Dozens of times to give a passing fire engine or ambulance room to pass.
The key is I only mount kerbs when there is not a pedestrian within the immediate area (in my case I judge that to be a good 30 yards or more). Never, if there are children anywhere near – they are too unpredictable.
What happens if you mechanise all the traffic violations with cameras rather than having police, is that the first time I get done for *safely* moving out of the way of an emergency vehicle will be the LAST time I do so. I don;t have the time or wish to risk a much higher fine taking this to the magistrate to argue out.
So the country gets what the country sows.
The government needs to legislate that moving out of the way trumps all other charges, unless you cause an actual accident doing so.
That video is highly selective as well. Not a single example of being in a snarled up town, row of parked cars down one side, no where to pull over and heavy traffic on your side.
So the advice to “not mount kerbs” is basically bollocks – what are you going to do when it’s physically impossible to do anything else?
This is disgusting the persons who have dreamt this ridiculous rule up I hope and pray that you your wifeyour child your mother your father your friends don’t need one of our 3 emergency services any time soon it the same old thing wealth over health bloody dispicable idiots
I. Had situation. We’re Emergency. Vehicle was Coming down on my side of the road
I had pull into bus lane other wise the Emergency vehicle would had hit me head on
As the Emergency was traveling at speed, I say over 30 MPH speed limit,
My only choice into bus lane for few secound S, Luckly there were no buses About,
So this has to be exception. To this rule, Like you answer on this point -?
The authorities should display some common sense. Emergency vehicles with lights on and sirens going are 99.9% likely to be on an EMERGENCY (strange that isn’t it?!!). So common sense should prevail from drivers moving over sensibly, authorities acting with a bit of human common sense and emergency services realising that sometimes we can do nothing
Surely the Social Action Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Act (a.k.a. the Good Samaritan Act) can be applied in such circumstances. After all, the Act is intended to provide a peremptory legal protection: “2 SOCIAL ACTION: The court must have regard to whether the alleged … breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members”, which is inarguably the case. The overriding case is set out in “4 RESPONSIBILITY: The court must have regard to whether the person … demonstrated a predominantly responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others.”
This Act applies when “… a court, in considering a claim that a person was negligent ***or in breach of statutory duty***, is determining the steps the person was required to take meet a standard of care”. Therefore, as the English legal definition of meeting a Standard of Care is defined as “his actions must be proven to fall below the Standard of Care likely to be taken by the reasonable man. … The standard of care is defined as the measures that a reasonable person (in the circumstances of the defendant) [would take] to reduce the risk of harm. In other words, it is the response of a reasonable person to a foreseeable risk”, such as whether to balance the risk of running a red light, or gently driving onto a pavement, or into a bus lane, versus the risk of causing an otherwise avoidable delay to the emergency services.
I’d be interested to hear qualified legal comment on these assertions and/or report of any cases where the SARAH Act has been offered in defence of malicious prosecutions brought by the authorities.
I’d also add that I’d expect the Emergency Services vehicle(s) to already be in the Bus Lane, where available, as these lanes are intended to provide an unobstructed run through traffic congestion, therefore, in normal circumstances there shouldn’t be any reason for ordinary motorists to pull over into a bus lane.
A rather pointless article really, no one is going to endanger themselves or others to let emergency vehicles pass but are we really meant to believe that the local authorities are going to prosecute a driver for blocking a driveway whilst letting them by ? And I am sure the ambulance,police,fire appliance driver has more important things on his/her mind than taking down your number to report you later. All in all it would appear to be nothing more than journalistic scaremongering.
It is correct in saying that ALL emergency vehicle drivers are trained to manoeuvre round ‘us’ and it is NOT our responsibility to move out of their way at all. If it is totally safe and legal, one can move over to let them pass and that is it. Uptodate Highway Code stuff.
Seems to me like the motorist is caught between a rock and a hard place! Where is the sense in penalising motorists who try to show consideration for emergency vehicles?
I drove a fire engine for many years. Don’t try and get out of the way and risk getting into trouble. Move if safe.and we will find a way through. It helps, though, if everyone left a bit more room to the car in front so that when nescessary everyone can shuffle up a bit and create more room.
The emergency services do a brilliant job given the amount of traffic on our roads, particularly at peak times and as a motorist of over 40years I always try to pull over. I just think what if they were trying to help a relative of mine would I be pleased if someone blocked their path.
I do find it ridiculous that councils levy fines on people who genuinely move into normal no-go areas like bus lanes – would they be so un-feeling if the town hall was burning down or the emergency was at their own home. It’s no wonder motorists feel so badly done to when we try to do the right thing. It will definitely make people think twice if they think they will be fined.
Councils are always inflexible when it comes to following any rule If a council makes a rule disobey it at your peril Is it councils or rather council officials who have no common sense so that cannot use any it anytime when they should
Having retired from the Fire Service a few yeas ago I applaud this campaign to raise awareness for what to do when meeting emergency vehicles responding to incidents. From my experience the worst thing to do when an emergency vehicle comes up behind you is to brake as this only causes the emergency driver to have to brake hard, losing momentum and time.
Emergency drivers are also frustrated by selfish drivers that think they can pull out in front of an oncoming emergency vehicle before they get close. This happened to me many times.
A Fire Appliance is a large truck and is not a sports car. It is slow compared with a car. So please don’t endanger yourself or others by erratic driving, drive at the speed safe for that road until you can find a safe place to pull over. Emergency drivers are trained to drive their vehicles so let them do their jobs. They have to obey most traffic laws as you do, the exception being that they are allowed to exceed speed limits only when safe to do so. They are not allowed to hurtle through red lights but may move through a traffic light junction against a red light but at reduced speed and only when safe to do so.
We have a saying in the Fire Service “drive to arrive” We are no good to the people who need us if we are involved in a collision enroute!
The emergency vehicles that I drove were fitted with cameras but I am not aware of them ever being used to prosecute obstructive drivers despite being sorely tempted in many occasions!
this is the attitude of simple minded councilers who live in a world of there own have the same type in boston link,s
This.really should be raised with our local MPs – yet again the motorist becomes an easy target for raising stealth taxes and it’s getting worse. Having read this, I will think very carefully about moving out of the way for the emergency services in future and, frankly, the consequences will rest on the consciences of the authorities who persist in taking advantage of such situations. As I understand things, ambulances and fire engines cannot endanger other road users so waiting until it’s safe to pull over shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t blame drivers, blame unscrupulous authorities that seek to take financial gain from any opportunity they can.
January 1, 2010, I went through a red light camera (no cross traffic whatsoever) in snowy/icy conditions with an artic, to make way for an ambulance with lights and siren.
I was prosecuted! I wrote a letter to the Chief Constable of Leicestershire, but got an unfeeling letter from some sort of clerk saying the offence had been proven by camera, and no excuse would be entertained.
I wrote back saying if this was the case, did he expect me to move out of the way of blue lights in the future?
His reply was that if I obstructed blue lights, I would be prosecuted!
As another correspondent noted, a rock and a hard place describes the situation.
Surely, in an attempt to potentially save lives, actions such as this should be exempt from prosecution – is n’t this only common sense and common decency?
I would not risk a fine for breaking the usual rules. The drivers of emergency vehicles should be trained to deal with such situations. Let them break the law. They will not be fined.
There’s an argument for a penalty for crossing the white line at stop lights – but one for entering a bus lane is moronic; when should a bus take priority over an emergency vehicle! The law is an ass. Stop LAs allowing greed to outweigh social responsibility.
This article has prompted me to watch a number of ‘Blue Light’ training videos and what struck me is that emergency drivers expect nothing more than for the rest of us to be aware they are there and give them space IF WE CAN. If that isn’t possible, then the best thing is to stop and let them use the bus lane/wrong side of the road/go through red lights etc. It is clear watching these videos that they do not expect others to act in a dangerous or illegal manner and are appreciative of any awareness and courtesy we show them. They are also aware that if you cannot move out of the way, pressuring you by leaving the sirens on is counterproductive so they go off. Also now understand why there are a variety of siren sounds – some work better on the open road others in built up areas, also if there is more than one vehicle, using two different tones lets you know that. Clever.
As a retired Fire service response instructor we taught our drivers to hold back giving drivers time to see them & find a safe place to pull over. At times it is better to turn sirens off and wait until the road ahead clears, tests have shown this saves time rather trying to squeeze through impossible gaps especially with fire engines & risk damaging vehicles.
We would never require any driver to go through red traffic lights especially as mentioned that fines will be issued.
I certainly will not go through a red light , enter a bus or mount a kerb especially if it’s likely to damage my wheels, if the emergency vehicle driver remembers their training it should not be required.
I’m not legally qualified but I can read and understand plain English.
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 explicitly states that it is “An Act to make provision as to matters to which a court must have regard in determining a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty.”
It seems clear that this law is not applicable in the case of offences against highway regulations; it is intended as a defence in civil cases
Don’t you just despise these mutant half breed throw backs who come up with these ideas to rip off the general motorist.
I used to drive for a private ambulance company, on blues and twos occasionally, and found in the main the motorist sensible, patient and willing to help, come what may. Why oh why do local authorities go out of there way to try and penalise the motorist.
The contempt I feel for them is pure and uncomplicated and comes from deep within my soul.
Save a life every time, come what may, except the rule makers. Stuff ’em.
After reading this I would not risk a fine for breaking the law. I have always moved over. I always think that One day I may need that service. But it seems the motorist can’t win. From now on my view is the drivers of emergency vehicles should be trained to deal with such situations. Let them use bus lanes and bump up kerbs etc. They won’t be fined.
Sorry Neil, I understand your sentiments, but bumping up kerbs when you have a patient in the back being worked on by a paramedics, is out of the equation.
Having been in the position of solid two lane traffic/ traffic lights and narrowing roads two lane into one over a bridge with ambulances regularly trying to blue light through my twice daily commute I am vexed by the assertion that I will be prosecuted along with my fellow 20 or 30 drivers for mounting the kerb to allow a traffic locked emergency vehicle through. I even manage to get up the kerb in my MX 5 which is not easily done but the only obvious available solution in rush hour miles of nose to tail traffic. Get a bloody grip here, prosecuted if we obstruct but obey the rules prosecuted if we aid the progress of an emergency vehicle.
I just hope that who ever was responsible for implementing this pathetic, sad excuse of a way to extort money from people who are genuinely trying to get out of the way to potentially save a life, are one day in an ambulance , needing urgent, life saving hospital treatment, but get stuck behind someone who won’t pull over into a bus lane through fear of getting a fine !!!! #karmawillfindyou
It seems the law has got you all ways on this.
You pull out of the way in busy traffic for a service vehicle through and you get penalised for it? That is utter craziness, its not like you did it on purpose, or you did it with intent of using that lane or curbside. And then if you don’t move out of the way, you get fined for hogging the road! Geez, who writes these crap laws?
I must admit if it means you got to stay in the traffic and there is no where to pull over, whoever is dying in the ambulance has just got to wait to die! Cause I’m not taking any law breaking and fine for a case like this. However that’s not saying I’m not going to move over, because I do, but I don’t move into areas I know I will get fined.
The law has to change, this is totally unfair! Greedy Government,.,.. Tories OUT!
Like most motorists I have found myself in the situation of driving when an emergency vehicle needs to pass, sometimes they are approaching from behind sometimes from in front etc.
Each and every situation is different, obviously, but do you not agree that one can hear the emergency vehicle well before they are on-top of you…
so there is ample time to observe what other drivers around you are doing and act accordingly.
I don’t normally travel near bus lanes, but it strikes me that it would be better to keep out of them so the emergency vehicle can use them.
Best advice I was given for this situation was to drive and act predictably to give the emergency vehicle drive a chance to anticipate your movements.
Problem is John that bus lanes have these things called buses in them that block the ambulance getting through. The law needs to be changed regarding emergency vehicles (it’s scattered across at least two pieces of legislation) to include reasonable actions by drivers making way for them. Driving into a bus lane and back out to let an ambulance through should not attract a fine, nor crossing a red light (when all other traffic has stopped precisely because of the siren). This needs to make its way to the High Court to get it sorted. There’s even been attempts to prosecute an ambulance driver with an emergency organ, but the CPS bottled out just before the Judge would have had chance to throw the case out. I suspect they have would saying there was no case to answer.
The problem is of course that emergency drivers are no better in the law than any other drivers. I realise this will offend emergency drivers who will have had further training, but this training isn’t statutory. Maybe we should all be allowed to take a statutory emergency driving course?
Any road with barriers (eg Euston Road in Central London) is virtually impassible for emergency drivers. It’s actually quicker to walk on some of these roads.
What cretins, penalising motorists for minor infringements of the law when they’re simply trying to help out the emergency services and by extension, someone in life-threatening danger.
Whatever one does try to make the emergency vehicle and other road users aware; i.e. INDICATE and if stationary keep indicator on and foot on brake pedal so brake lights show. If I decide ‘to break the law’ and I’m fined I will not pay until after I’ve had my chance in court to explain my actions. Magistrates have discretion and many are sensible people.
This all smacks of poorly worded legislation written by incompetents plus appalling mis-interpretation by Courts.
Where I live there are several hospitals and numerous junctions where no emergency vehicle can proceed if motorists don’t move over Stop lines or into Box junctions.
Clearly, the Local Government Association is deafeningly silent on this!
As to the Social Action Responsibility and Heroism Act (SARAH), I think that it only applies to Civil Courts. Seemingly, traffic “offences” come within the purview of the Criminal Courts.
There certainly needs to be some clarity on what people should do when an emergency vehicle needs to pass them, I’ve seen some odd, unexpected, unhelpful and dangerous responses, probably largely because people panic, I don’t think fining people is appropriate here, I consider myself a very law abiding motorist (and in general too), but I’d not think twice about slipping into a yellow box or past a red light or even onto a pavement (and I’ve done all of those things) if I felt it was necessary to let an emergency vehicle pass, when their lights and sirens are on I presume someone could be in mortal danger, and while I’d ordinarily happily pay any fine I incur I’d fight one doggedly given in such circumstances, presuming I wasn’t throwing my car onto a pavement full of school children or something similarly obviousy daft.
I’ll continue to respond in the same way I always have, based on common sense and having spoken to a few drivers of emergency vehicles I’ve known over the years, fines be damned (and I’m really not the kind of person who’d normally say that, I feel like a borderline anarchist!).
I’ve been many times in the position of having to move over and as long as it’s safe I will carry on doing so. The main part is to indicate and let the emergency driver know what you are doing or planning on doing.
You see, the other side is, I have also been in an ambulance with my partner who has a brain aneurysm which was bleeding. Every minute was crucial and if someone thinks even £100 fines are not worth it I would ask them to consider what they would say if their house was on fire or their brain was bleeding or their heart was stopping.
Safety is paramount but so is being able to judge if it is safe to move out of the way.
At rush hour, outside where I work in Somerset, there is a road leading to the main A&E, Musgrove Park Hospital, which will take most of the emergency service vehicles from a traffic accident on the M5 if it becomes impassable. Which it does, sometimes. With a big incident, this results in ambulances both ways and fire crews and police outbound. It can and usually does take me 8 minutes to get from where I join the road to the next lights 300 yards down the road. You can’t mount the kerb, it’s too high. It’s a dual carriageway with a central verge, but that’s not wide enough. We have to stagger cars when the lights change. It takes ages for the ambulance to wriggle through. Probably 4-5 minutes for the 300yds. It’s horrendous. If they’re going that way they most likely have a patient on board.
So yes, I’d mount the kerb if I could. Not being able to do anything is bad enough but I couldn’t *chose * not too.
The Local Authority has to produce evidence of violation of the traffic rule. And obviously, any photos or video camera would clearly show that under the circumstances, it was reasonable for the motorists to allow the emergency service vehicle.I would let this matter proceed to the Court and would expect the Magistrate/judge to have enough common sense to throw out the case.
not necessarily at all, speed or red light cameras may not show the emergency vehicle, just the front of the offending vehicle including the numberplate and the fact that the camera was triggered
We’ll you learn something every day. I was not aware of this and I would still move over regardless if I felt the situation required it. I would refuse to pay any fine. I have always maintained that the purpose of a local council is to make the lives of their residents and anybody passing through a misery.
I have read about 20 comments which appear to reflect how emotive a subject this is. My immediate reaction was to query the parentage of local authority staff who allowed for no discretion to a driver who has obviously considered other road users and ensured that there is no safety issue involved in mounting a kerb or entering a bus lane and enforcing the strict letter of the law. On reflection, I think that despite my previous actions ( not red lights but most other infractions ) I will try and be guided by the entries that remind us that emergency vehicle drivers are probably better trained to deal with these situations and are in a more favourable situation vis a vis the law.There is no doubt that some drivers are panicked into behaving inappropriately with the pressure of the siren noise- it is designed , after all , to penetrate our conscousness over all other sounds – but the test will come when I next hear that sound. Will I remember this article and the possible consequences of my actions, or will I just think that I may be able to be privileged in helping to save someone’s life ? I am a tutor for advanced drivers and may find myself in the very dubious moral or ethical position of any teacher who says ” Don’t do as I do, do as I say “. I await the acid test.
A big problem is that standard sirens make you aware of an emergency vehicle’s presence, one is unable to tell from which direction it is coming, which means you then have to keep looking around until you see them.
A few years ago an experiment was conducted mixing “white noise” into the sound, which enabled other drivers to clearly determine the position of the emergency vehicle. Why this was never introduced is beyond me! It seems a simple solution to a difficult problem!
This is the most ridiculous load of nonsense I’ve ever read. Emergency vehicles on an emergency call should ALWAYS take priority and as a driver, I will always move my vehicle out of their way no matter what. If I need to mount a pavement to make room I most certainly would and I would expect anyone else around, maybe using the pavement to get out of my way to do so, they can see and hear the vehicle as well as I can. It is down to everyone to make sure that vehicle gets where it needs to go as quickly as possible and if I was ever faced with a fine for doing so I would fight it all the way. In some situations you have no choice by to perform the actions mentioned in this article to make room for the emergency vehicle, it is no good saying that the driver of the emergency vehicle should be able to deal with it, if the space available is not big enough for them then no matter what they would not be able to get through. Do not be an arse, get of their way!!!!
so theres traffic on the opposite side of the road at a standstill, im at a red light with no traffic to my left or right & an emergency vehicle behind me that cant get past, of course i’ll check the road both ways before i jump the red light the same as the emergency vehicle would (or should) & if i get a fine i’ll tell them the same as my wife just said, ” take me to court, & if we get found guilty by a magistrate we’ll refuse to pay & say take it to judge & jury & see what they have to say, & if we still get found guilty we’ll refuse to pay & say put us in prison” & we still wont pay! What will the people say when they hear that if we’d had sat & waited for the lights someone had got stabbed, bleed to death or a child had burned to death all because we would’nt move & get a ticket? Well thanks for backing the people Mr/Mrs MP, council man/woman from 2 people who put you there to fight for us THE PEOPLE! The lot of you can get stuffed with your fines cos we aint gonna pay. As the old saying goes, stick that in your pipe & smoke it! (sorry we better be pc & say vapes.)
Exactly what I would do.
Viewers who watch programs on TV involving emergency vehicle drivers, will know that comments heard from drivers on blues and sirens often give the impression that a driver observing the correct road traffic regulations, which means holding them up, is verbally abused, being called a moron and other expletives. Clearly drivers of emergency vehicles expect others to get out of the way in any way they can, the emergency being uppermost in their minds. Perhaps some of you who drive emergency vehicles would like to add your comments to this debate. After the election is over ,we should all write to our new MP an get clear instructions given to councils, based on common sense, put into place.