How to drive when blue light vehicles want to pass

Jack Evans
·3-min read

Letting emergency vehicles pass with the blues and twos blaring can be a nerve-wracking experience, even for experienced drivers.

With this in mind, road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist has advice for motorists that has been developed in conversation with emergency services and Highways England.

From Tuesday December 1, 10 animations will be posted online over 10 days, targeted at learner drivers and instructors, giving advice on how to deal with blue light vehicles.

GEM chief executive Neil Worth said: “We know that most people want to help a ‘blue light vehicle’ but that they can be taken by surprise and they don’t always understand what ‘doing the right thing’ is.

“We are confident that these videos will help learners become more confident because there will be less confusion in situations where an emergency vehicle needs their help. If confusion is reduced, then so is risk.”

This campaign follows the latest advice, which was published in September. Here, we summarise some of the most important points in GEM’s advice.

Stay calm and looks for somewhere to pull in

Fire engine
(GEM Motoring Assist)

Stopping in the road with no way for an emergency vehicle to pass will only hold them up. Instead, stay calm and look for a good place to pull in.

If you’re approaching a bend or the brow of a hill, keep going, because forcing an emergency vehicle to pass on the wrong side of the road when they can’t see what’s coming is very dangerous.

GEM suggests keeping out of bus lanes, not mounting kerbs or stopping near traffic islands. You should also not go through a red light to allow a vehicle past.

When approaching a roundabout

If you’re approaching a roundabout, keep an eye on the vehicle in your mirrors. Its lane position and indicators should tell you where it wants to go, so you can decide if you need to take action.

If you’re already stopped at the roundabout, move to the side if you can to give the emergency vehicle space to pass. However, don’t drive into the roundabout if it is not safe to do so, and look around before moving off in case a second blue light vehicle is approaching.

On the motorway

In free-flowing traffic, move to the left when it is safe to do so. An emergency vehicle will only pass you on the right.

In stationary traffic, if there is a hard shoulder, it is likely emergency vehicles will use this to bypass traffic.

However, if there is no hard shoulder on a three-plus-lane road, drivers in the left and middle lanes should move left, and the rightmost lane should move right. This creates an ‘emergency corridor’ for vehicles to safely drive along. Keep the corridor in place even when vehicles have passed in case more are coming.

Stay alert when emergency vehicles want to pass
(GEM Motoring Assist)

Remember, it is illegal to use a ‘red X’ lane on a smart motorway, so when you see these move over as soon as it is safe to do so, even if you can’t see an incident. Emergency vehicles will use these lanes when safe to do so, and they create a safe barrier between motorists and an incident ahead.

Rolling road block

Occasionally, police or motorway officers will put a ‘rolling road block’ in place. This is when a motorway patrol vehicle or police car slows traffic – it will usually have its lights flashing and illuminated instructions such as ‘Don’t Pass’ in the rear window.

Follow the instructions and stay behind the vehicle, stopping safely if instructed to do so. The vehicle will pull to the left and indicate for you to pass when an incident has been cleared.

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