In Beautiful British Columbia, we have specific rules and guidelines around emergency vehicles.
It’s important for everyone, including new drivers of course, to familiarize themselves with the proper BC emergency vehicle etiquette and protocols.
It’s always awkward for everyone when an emergency vehicle is coming with its emergency lights and sirens activated.
Emergency vehicles are just one of the many reasons why you should look from left to right before crossing intersections.
This is especially true if you are the first vehicle at an intersection when your light goes green.
BC Emergency Vehicle Etiquette Video
Here’s just one little example of a time when the vehicles needed to stop for a green light, because an emergency vehicle was coming.
Remember to check your mirror to make sure the vehicle behind you isn’t going to rear-end your vehicle. You can’t be sure that the driver behind you is alert and prepared to suddenly stop.
Proper emergency vehicle etiquette includes
Here are the standard emergency vehicle guidelines to follow.
When the emergency vehicle with lights and/or sirens is coming
- Pull over to the closest curb or edge of the roadway. This is usually to your right, but might be to your left if you are on a one-way street for example. Then, STOP completely. Do this safely and watch the car behind to make sure you won’t be rear-ended.
As there is obviously already an emergency, the last thing that anyone needs in that moment is another emergency/collision.
If the emergency vehicle is going the same direction as you, or the opposite direction, you should still pull over and stop.
The only exception is when you’re on a divided road, like a freeway. Then, it makes no sense for you to stop, as the vehicle will not be potentially crossing cement medians to drive around traffic.
In the following photo, each driver has pulled over to their closest curb. This makes a path in the middle for the emergency vehicle to fit through.
The vehicles going in the opposite direction don’t need to pull over and stop. That’s because there’s no way an emergency vehicle on the other side of the cement barrier would cross the barrier to get around a traffic jam.
Sometimes the emergency vehicle drives on the wrong side of the road as this is the only available space in rush hour, for example.
If you can’t pull over, then just stop where you are. When stopped, its predictable for the emergency vehicle driver. The driver can plan a route around you.
If you keep moving, it will be difficult for them to figure out how to get around. They have no idea what you are going to do.
In the following photo, both directions of traffic should stop for the emergency vehicle, because there’s no divider. This means the vehicle may utilize any part of either direction.
Sometimes you may need to get out of the way. For example, if the emergency vehicle is behind you close to an intersection, you may be able to turn right and then stop.
This would free the way for the emergency vehicle.
BC’s Slow Down and move over laws
British Columbia has a bad record of first responders who have been injured or killed on the roads.
These events happened when first responders were just trying to help others. For this reason, BC’s Slow Down & Move Over Laws became a thing.
The laws are designed to keep first responders safe while they deal with emergencies in our communities. Drivers were failing to slow down and/or move over. People got hurt or killed.
Follow these laws to do your part.
- If you’re driving on a road where the speed limit is 80 km/hr or higher, slow to 70 km/hr.
- When you’re driving on a road where the speed limit is below 80 km/hr, slow to 40 km/hr.
In situations where there is another lane going in the same direction, move into it if safe.
ThE slow down and move over law applies to these vehicles
- Stopped police vehicles
- Ambulance vehicles
- Fire vehicles
- Commercial safety and enforcement vehicles
- Transportation inspectors
- Park rangers
- Conservation officers
But this is probably a good rule to follow for ANY type of vehicle/person stopped on the side of the road.
Penalties for not slowing down and moving over in Beautiful British Columbia are $173 + 3 penalty points.
Between 2001 and 2007, 21 emergency workers were injured or killed on B.C. roads.
Emergency Vehicles without lights and sirens
I know that new drivers often wonder about emergency vehicles that don’t have lights and sirens. You can treat these vehicles just the same as any other regular car.
It’s only when there are lights flashing and/or sirens activated that you need to stop and/or get out of the way.
Do Not Block Emergency Vehicle Driveways/Entrances
Check out the road markings here
What’s up with this nice design on the road?
This warns drivers not to stop on these lines.
It means do not block the intersection/driveway.
Usually this is found at the entrances to emergency vehicle driveways, although you should avoid blocking any intersection.
If there is backed up traffic and/or a red light, stop in front of the lines, or behind them, but not on top of them.
Vancouver Fire & Rescue Responding to Real Emergencies
Carmen C. is the founder of DrivingInstructorBlog.com After becoming an ICBC-GLP (Graduated Licensing Program) driving instructor at the age of 22, she worked for about 8 years teaching driving lessons in beautiful North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
In 2012 she decided to pour her knowledge into a website and share this information with the world! 🌎 She no longer teaches, but enjoys writing and maintaining this blog, creating abstract art when inspired, and photography.