sharing the road with emergency vehicles

Sharing the Road with Emergency Vehicles: Essential Rules

When we encounter flashing lights and blaring sirens on the roads, it’s crucial to know how to react and ensure the safety of everyone involved. Emergency responders put their lives on the line to serve and protect us, and it’s our responsibility as drivers to help them reach their destinations quickly and safely. Whether you’re a new driver or have years of experience behind the wheel, it’s essential to stay up to date with the rules of the road and familiarize yourself with the proper protocol for sharing the road with emergency vehicles.


Understanding the Right of Way

Emergency vehicles, including fire engines, police cars, and ambulances, enjoy the right of way when their emergency equipment is in use. ‘In use’ means flashing lights and sounding sirens. As responsible drivers, we must yield to these vehicles and take appropriate action to allow them to pass safely and expeditiously. Failing to do so not only poses a risk to emergency personnel but also potentially delays critical assistance to those in need.

Pull Over Safely

When you notice an emergency vehicle approaching from behind with its lights flashing and/or sirens blaring, it’s crucial to react promptly and pull over to the right side of the road. Follow these steps to ensure a safe and efficient maneuver:

  1. Remain calm and avoid any distractions that may hinder your ability to notice the approaching emergency vehicle.
  2. Check your mirrors and signal your intention to pull over to the right.
  3. Gradually reduce your speed and make a smooth transition to the right side of the road.
  4. Come to a complete stop and allow the emergency vehicle to pass you safely.

Pro Tip: Always keep your stereo volume low enough to hear approaching sirens and be vigilant for flashing lights in your surroundings.

What Happens at Intersections with Emergency Vehicles

Intersections can be particularly challenging when it comes to sharing the road with emergency vehicles.  Follow these guidelines provided by the RCMP when encountering an emergency vehicle at an intersection:

  1. If you’re at an intersection and an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights flashing and/or sirens on, you must come to a complete stop and allow the vehicle to pass through the intersection.
  2. Only proceed once the emergency vehicle has cleared the intersection and it is safe to do so.
  3. Remember, even if the emergency vehicle hasn’t engaged its sirens, but its lights are flashing, it’s still crucial to extend the same courtesy and let the vehicle pass.

 Imagine you’re waiting at a red light, and an ambulance with its lights flashing and sirens blaring approaches the intersection from your right. You must wait until the ambulance passes through the intersection before proceeding, even if your light turns green.

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Highway Etiquette to Remember

Sharing the road with emergency vehicles on highways requires additional attention and caution due to higher speeds and multiple lanes. Here are some crucial guidelines for interacting with emergency vehicles on highways:

  1. When you notice an emergency vehicle stopped at the side of the highway with its lights flashing, you must slow down to a maximum speed of 60 km/h. This speed reduction is mandatory unless you are driving on the opposite side of a divided highway.
  2. The same rule applies to tow trucks and other service vehicles with amber or amber and blue lights flashing. Always exercise caution and reduce your speed when passing these vehicles on the side of the highway.

Note: If you’re traveling on a divided highway, where there is a physical barrier separating the lanes of traffic, you are not required to slow down when passing an emergency vehicle on the opposite side.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Failing to yield or pull over to the right and stop when an emergency vehicle is passing can have serious consequences. By not following the rules of the road, not only do you risk endangering lives, but you may also face legal penalties:

  1. Conviction for failing to yield or pull over to the right and stop when an emergency vehicle is passing can result in a fine of $125.
  2. If you pass a stopped emergency vehicle at a speed exceeding 60 km/h, you may face fines starting at $140. Additionally, a per-kilometer rate may be assessed for each kilometre you exceed the speed limit. Moreover, three demerit points will be assigned to your driving record.


Sharing the road with emergency vehicles is a crucial responsibility that every driver must uphold. By knowing and adhering to the rules and guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can ensure the safety of emergency responders, yourself, and everyone else on the road. Remember to stay calm, be aware of your surroundings, and react promptly when you see flashing lights or hear sirens approaching.

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