Blue, red and green lights are used by the emergency services along with sirens as additional signals to alert us of their presence. The list of emergency services entitled to use them is too long to list completely here, but day-to-day we see police, ambulance and fire services on the road, however we could also see bomb disposal, mountain rescue and even HM Revenue and Customs using flashing lights!
Note that the rest of this article assumes that the blue lights aren’t because a police car is wanting you to stop. You’re and advanced driver, why would they?
We often see the lights and hear the sirens of emergency vehicles around us, but do we know the best way to react? The Highway Code has a few comments to make on this topic and I hope that this article will expand on this advice.
The first thing to do is put yourself in the position of the driver of the emergency vehicle and ask yourself “what are they trying to achieve?”
The answer to this question is typically progress. They will be on a call and are trying to get from A to B as quickly and safely as possible. The next consideration is how can you best help them make progress?
Ask yourself, will they be able to keep their momentum passing? When slowing/stopping, are you positioning your vehicle such that they can smoothly and efficiently pass, or are you creating an obstacle, requiring them to slow down?
If the answer to the questions above are no, you may be better off keeping going with them behind you. They are highly trained so will be aware that in this circumstance that you’re actually helping them rather than hindering (in such cases they will probably turn the siren off).
It is also worth looking at any other signals they are giving, including their vehicle’s body language, do you think they may be turning soon, in which case, just keeping on going may be the best help.
Also consider what oncoming traffic is doing? If two of you stop close together, you may block the carriageway altogether.
When you do decide to pull over and stop, do not forget to signal clearly in advance so the driver of the emergency vehicle knows your intent.
One last point to note is emergency vehicles with blue and red lights have certain exemptions to the traffic laws to help them respond quicker, whereas vehicles with green lights do not.
Never forget that as a civilian, you do not have any such exemptions to break any traffic laws in an attempt to help the driver of an emergency vehicle. Therefore, do not exceed the speed limit, do not cross red traffic lights, do not drive in a bus lane, the list goes on…
Stay safe and if you see blue, think: “am I helping or hindering the driver of the emergency vehicle?”