Clarification About Breaking The Law To Make Way for Emergency Vehicle

(Last Updated On: April 22, 2017)

Q: Hi, let’s say an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing and/or sirens on wants to get through but they cannot do so unless you get out of its way. (The traffic is very heavy and there is no shoulder either) Are you legally allowed to move into the intersection (or even turn) to make room for the emergency vehicle even if the light is red and/or signs prohibit a turn?

I don’t believe there is any law saying you can get away with breaking laws whenever there is an emergency vehicle! In my experience, sometimes the emergency vehicle (I’ve seen this with ambulances mostly) has turned off the siren/lights until the light has gone green, and then they turn it on again and expect the cars to then move out of the way. So that tells me they do not want people doing things that are dangerous if getting out of the way is literally impossible. No one really wants emergencies, but one is better than two.

My question was based on what I saw today. Two cars had to go through the red light (first, they stopped halfway in the intersection) just so that a police vehicle could get through. Two cars (on a two lane road) were stopped behind the stop line when the light was red. The police car then arrived behind them. Then they moved halfway into the intersection. Once the police passed by, they exited the intersection by going straight (basically, ran the red light).

I think it would be safer to try to turn right on the red light, even if it’s a wide or “improper” kind of turn. I have done that before in my life.

I agree with you that turning right would’ve been better but what if right turn on red was not allowed? It’s my first time seeing something like this so it got me wondering.

I think that if there’s no right on red, it’s for a reason (like bad visibility, a hill or a curve.. ) however if the lights and sirens are on AND any car coming around the hill/curve or in that area has stopped due to noticing the emergency vehicle, then it suddenly becomes rather safe to turn right on the red (although may be technically illegal). The emergency vehicle is obviously busy and trying to get somewhere, he’s not going to stop and give you a ticket. But the problem would be if there was a crash resulting from your right turn.. would you be at fault. It is an interesting situation. If the lights and sirens are still on I would take that to mean “Get out of the way NOW” Not like the Ambulance I saw that turned off the light/siren until the light went green.

I guess the best thing to do is use common sense and realize that it is very important for the emergency vehicle to get to where it’s going as quickly as possible. If you knew it was a matter of life or death then a traffic ticket or infraction of the law should not seem something to worry about compared to the other person waiting for the emergency vehicle! I don’t think any police in their right mind would give you a ticket for breaking the law to get out of the way as long as it was done safely. Anyway if I knew I could save someone’s life by paying for a right on red light ticket I would happily pay it. Just me. Just be careful. Some times the other cars don’t notice the emergency vehicle, especially if they’re distracted, on the phone, or have loud music playing and screaming kids in the back seat, etc.

ICBC Says (From the Learn to Drive Smart Manual)

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Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!

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