SIREN screaming, lights flashing, an emergency vehicle is heading your way at speed and it may be a matter of life or death. So what do you do?
If you’re at traffic lights, they’re showing red so you ease past them to allow the ambulance, fire engine or police car to get through, you are breaking the law and could be in trouble.
Or if you pull over into a bus lane to give the 999 driver a clear route, you are again risking the possibility of being fined.
Ridiculous? Well, a lot of people think so, according to the findings of a survey carried out by IAM, the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Their investigation found that more than a third of the people who responded admitted they did not know the rules on how to deal with an approaching emergency vehicle.
Their understandable ignorance is reflected in the fact that a quarter of motorists said they would go through a red light to let a blue light vehicle through, while a third admitted they had at some time pulled into a bus lane.
Some 44 per cent of motorists said they thought it unfair to prosecute drivers who cross a red light and 31 per cent believe it should be made legal to do so. And 86 per cent said it was unfair to fine drivers who move into a bus lane in order to clear the road.
The survey’s findings reveal that, while most people are aware of the laws surrounding emergency vehicles, around half are willing to break them to let the emergency services through.
But while 74 per cent would pull over when they see an emergency vehicle approaching, most know it is illegal to jump the lights and half would not do so. They agree, however, that those who fail to get out of the way should be fined.
Almost half of motorists also think that traffic stopped at an incident should keep a lane space free for emergency service vehicles, according to the IAM poll.
This approach is being trialled in Austria. Emergency corridors that motorists must leave between motorway or dual carriageway lanes are now mandatory whenever congestion occurs on motorways and dual carriageways.
IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Fining people for pulling into empty bus lanes so that life-saving services can get through is just plain wrong.
“Most drivers quite rightly want to get out of the way. Simply catching and penalising drivers who break the rules to let emergency vehicles pass will not serve to educate them – people must understand the rules to abide by them.
“Road users must be on the look-out for emergency service vehicles and move out of the way where possible but laws have been put in place for the safety of all road users.
“Our survey shows clear support for more clarity and new ways of ensuring police, fire and ambulance personnel get to incidents with maximum speed and minimum risk to themselves and others.”