Emergency Vehicles and Red Light

Lately I have noticed many emergency vehicles kept their siren sound on when they are stuck in traffic. I noticed couple of police cars yesterday behind a car at red light. The police car didn't turn off their siren sound and probably the car driver in front go panicked and drove the red light. It could have resulted in really bad accident.

Similarly thing happened last week with Ambulance. Personally I think it's not safe to do.

Would red light fine be waived in case of camera on that intersection?

What people think about it?

Poll Options

  • 13
    Police was wrong and should turn off siren sound
  • 96
    Driver did the right thing to get out of way

Comments

  • +20 votes

    Road Rule 78 and 79 deals with this.

    And no, the emergency vehicle should not turns lights and sirens off while they wait, it is, after all, an emergency they are trying to get to. It's a good reminder to the person blocking them that they are blocking an emergency vehicle on route to an emergency. It's not the sound of inconvenience, it's the sound of "get out of the (fropanity) way!!" The warnings are for everyone on the road and at the intersection.

    I have friends who drive ambulances and they say this is the bane of their life. Lights and sirens going and people just sitting there not getting out of the way.

    • -1 vote

      Well this is a very simplistic view of what can happen. I work at a tertiary hospital and drive home past another tertiary hospital. There are occasions where traffic is already packed in and waiting at the traffic lights when an ambulance comes up behind them. As someone posted below, cars are not allowed to run a red light to make way for an ambulance, so they literally can't move.

      • +4 votes

        While I agree that there are times where drivers are snookered in and cant move, but there is no reason to turn the lights and sirens off if the emergency vehicles are trying to attend an emergency just because a few people around them don't like the lights and sound.

        The lights and sirens are there to warn everyone in that proximity that there is an emergency vehicle in the location and it may need space at any given moment to keep moving.

        And for the record, I also don't condone breaking the law (running red/stop signs/speeding/etc) and putting yourself at risk of an accident just to let an emergency vehicle get past. But then again, I also see a lot of arsehole drivers that do have the ability to get safely out of the way, and don't.

        • +2 votes

          I also see a lot of arsehole drivers that do have the ability to get safely out of the way, and don't.

          Lol, yeah I didn't mean to imply otherwise. There are also plenty of people who are either arseholes or oblivious, or both.

          I have seen plenty of examples where people could move and don't… or my favourite, someone moves over then some jackass moves in to fill the spot they just cleared. This causes the double whammy of not only blocking the ambulance but also prevents the considerate driver from being able to rejoin after the ambulance passes.

          My other favourite is ambulance chasers that take it upon themselves to closely follow the ambulance as it clears a path, thus preventing all the people who got out of the way coming back in. Usually 2 or 3 of those every time.

        • +5 votes

          but there is no reason to turn the lights and sirens off if the emergency vehicles are trying to attend an emergency

          The reason emergency vehicles turn off their sirens (not their lights) in this situation is so that the people they're stuck behind don't panic and do something stupid.

          I also don't condone breaking the law (running red/stop signs/speeding/etc) and putting yourself at risk of an accident just to let an emergency vehicle get past

          Despite having limited exemptions from the road rules, emergency drivers are always responsible for their actions and always need to be able to justify that their action/s are reasonable and careful, or they end up in court (or worse, in the coroner's court). Forcing another driver to break the law in getting out of their way at a traffic light is not a reasonable and careful action. I've driven fire trucks for about 15 years, and I always turn the siren off at traffic lights if drivers in front of me cannot get out of the way.

          •  

            @pjetson:

            The reason emergency vehicles turn off their sirens (not their lights) in this situation is so that the people they're stuck behind don't panic and do something stupid.

            Yep, people can panic from far less (e.g. impatient horn tooting). No doubt that panic has caused accidents, which is precisely what the emergency responders don't need and why they may opt to deactivate sirens.

            I've driven fire trucks for about 15 years, and I always turn the siren off at traffic lights if drivers in front of me cannot get out of the way.

            What's your expectation if you're stuck behind cars at a red light intersection but there is zero oncoming traffic, meaning it would be perfectly safe for them to go through the red light?

            Apparently it would be kosher according to the OzBargain case law, though other comments in this thread insist not to do so regardless of the circumstances.

            • +1 vote

              @the splingee:

              What's your expectation if you're stuck behind cars at a red light intersection but there is zero oncoming traffic, meaning it would be perfectly safe for them to go through the red light?

              Unfortunately, this is the kind of question that can only be answered definitively after the fact. What if I think that there is zero oncoming traffic, but I'm wrong? What if I leave my siren on, and a driver moves off against the red light because of it, and has an accident? The answer has to be that I turn my siren off when I can't proceed.

          • -1 vote

            @pjetson: I'd heard that a firey would ram you out of thier way if you didn't move into the intersection to get out of thier way. Not true you reckon?

            •  

              @SlickMick: Endanger more people by pushing through on their way to helping endangered people?
              What if that pushing resulted in a fuel fire, now he's (profanity).
              I think what you're referring to is ramming parked cars out of the way to access locations close to the fire itself, only seen this in a few videos from USA (smashing windows to access hydrants or pushing parked cars in narrow streets out of the way).

            •  

              @SlickMick:

              would ram you out of their way if you didn't move

              I think any emergency vehicle driver would tell you that they certainly feel like doing that sometimes!

    •  

      It does depend on each state though. In my state it's illegal to go through a red light if an emergency vehicle with lights/sirens is behind you. The risk is a fine and 3 demerit points. However I've never known anyone to be in trouble for doing it.

      Obviously you and OP are in NSW so what you said is correct. You'd be surprised how many people don't realise the road rules vary between states.

    • +3 votes

      It's flat out illegal to enter the intersection on a red light (emergency vehicles excepted), even if there is an emergency vehicle with sirens behind you.

      It is a courtesy for emergency drivers to turn off sirens when they are blocked by traffic.

      • -1 vote

        It's flat out illegal to enter the intersection on a red light

        I did it 10 minutes ago, the sign said turn left on red permitted.

      •  

        is it really? I'd like to see the law, because I was taught, and therefore assumed I was required by law, to get out of an emergency vehicle's road. I will enter an intersection or whatever it takes. I'm curious now that you're saying I'm breaking the law to do this. I thought "emergency situation" would trump "road rules".

        •  

          Google it yourself dude, plenty of newspaper articles about people getting stung for red light fines.

          • -1 vote

            @ESEMCE: Taking advantage of an emergency to run a red light = fine. Totally agree with that.

            Not getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle I hope would result in even bigger fine. Unfortunately our governments make too much allowance for the stupidty of people and probably don't do much about it.

            I was glad to read below that Qld has laws providing for getting out of the road of emergency vehicles.

    • -2 votes

      It is against the road rules to go through a red light, doesn't matter if its police, ambulance, prime minister or superman. You cannot drive through a red light.

  • +3 votes

    You can be fined if you proceed through a red light even to make room for an emergency vehicle, especially if it's an intersection with a camera. It's up to the emergency vehicle to take a safe route.

    •  

      I can remember this a while ago being on the news. Exactly this happened by a good Samaritan, gave way and got fined. The fine was revoked however they couldn't revoke the lost demerit points for some reason. Not sure what happened from there.

  • +16 votes

    None of the options listed are correct.

    Police was right to leave siren on, driver should not have ran a red light

    •  

      Great to know. Thanks for Clarifying!

  • +3 votes

    Welcome to OzGoogle here is your answer: https://www.mynrma.com.au/cars-and-driving/driver-training-a...

    •  

      I think the 'Never run a red light' rule is basically correct. It puts a lot of pressure on the lead driver who doesn't have the benefit of red/blue flashing lights to warn others. Also if we accept just one car running a red light to let emergency services through, how about just two cars? If the first driver goes through the intersection then the next will be tempted too, etc.

  • +1 vote

    Driver should stay stationary as they are, it's up to emergency vehicles to find their way around (Inc. running a red light)..

    The driver you saw yesterday will get fined, and lose points as a result..

    The poll is incorrect, should be more options, for e.g. driver is incorrect.

  •  

    I've heard ambulance drivers say they turn off the siren for the sake of the patient inside.

    Less stressful for the patient.

    I would give way to an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so, even if there is a red light camera.

    • +1 vote

      I heard too many stories of people having to fight so hard to get a red light fine dropped. It’s up to the emergency vehicle to go around. Unless the rules are changed.

    • +1 vote

      You end up getting the fine anyway - had a similar experience and contesting it didn't work out for me

  • +1 vote

    In my state, emergency vehicles leave lights on but turn sirens off if stuck behind traffic at a red light. They turn it straight back on the moment the lights go green.

  • +6 votes

    From OzBargain Case Law - Thread from 2016 - Fined for Running a Red Traffic Arrow to Give Way for an Ambulance

    Spoiler alert - Fine withdrawn with an apology.

    (2) If a driver is in the path of an approaching police or emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or red light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm, the driver must move out of the path of the vehicle as soon as the driver can do so safely.
    Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.
    (3) This rule applies to the driver despite any other rule of these Rules.

    As pegasx has noted Road Rule 78 and 79.

    • +1 vote

      Good find! Love the OzBargain case law!

      • +5 votes

        The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final. This is Judge Judy OzBargain.

        •  

          Did it include the slap down scene from JJ?

    •  

      As pegasx has noted Road Rule 78 and 79.

      In NSW*

  • +3 votes

    The law on this matter varies by state most seem to not allow it however you can drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so in Queensland.

    •  

      This ^

    • -1 vote

      Thank you.

      Mod, can you allow 500 negs today so I can educate all those peddling falsehoods here.

      •  

        Not necessarily falsehoods, but what is applicable in one state is not necessarily applicable in another. Because Australia.

  • +2 votes

    Maybe different rules for different states but I think emergency vehicles should turn siren off (lights on still) and not pressure the driver in front to break the law. I know that's the rule for CFA drivers but not sure of other emergency services. Below is an excerpt from a CFA document found online on page 64.

    "You must not cause the public to break the law. For example, if you were stationary behind a vehicle at a red traffic control light, you should not use the siren to pressure the driver to move forward past the light."

  • +3 votes

    In QLD it is legal to run a red to give way to an emergency vehicle with lights and/or siren activated.

    Emergency vehicles

    Police, fire and ambulance vehicles are emergency vehicles.

    If an emergency vehicle is coming towards you and is sounding an alarm or showing flashing red or blue lights, you must move out of its path as soon as you can do so safely.

    You should:
    slow down
    move left to give the vehicle a clear run down the middle of the road. If you can’t move left safely, stay where you are and let the emergency vehicle overtake you should not move your vehicle suddenly

    not drive into the path of the emergency vehicle.

    The law allows you to drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so.

    However giving way to emergency vehicles should always be done with the utmost care and with the safety of yourself and all other road users as a priority.

    https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/other/emergenc...

    •  

      Good to know. Usually people freeze up and try to move, creating more congestion. I have been driving in QLD for a number of years and never actually knew if it's legal or not when an emergency vehicle is trying to get through.

  • +1 vote

    All road rules have to be observed before moving out of the way of an emergency vehicle. You can be fined for going through red light, going on wrong side of the road, or any other situation.
    The way it should work is once the lights go green, the lane without the ambulance behind remains stopped and allows the vehicle in front of (not 'blocking') to change lanes a nd release the ambulance.

  •  

    When driving a CFA firetruck responding to a code 1 it is lights and sirens all the way.. that is the procedure … It means the truck is responding to a call out were peoples lives are in danger and the quicker we get there the less chance lives will be lost… (as others have said Safety to other road uses is also important… other drivers should not brake the law to get out of the way )

    •  

      CFA document excerpt posted above:-

      You must not cause the public to break the law. For example, if you were stationary behind a vehicle at a red traffic control light, you should not use the siren to pressure the driver to move forward past the light.

      That wording is suggestive of deactivating siren when stopped behind another vehicle at a red light.

    •  

      Just because its a code 1, there is the option to slow down, and perhaps wait at a red light.
      The code 1 ciggie hopper fire that another unit (or multiple) is already at, or the wash away requested at at MVA doesn't need lights and bells, despite it happening almost every time.

  •  

    Both poll options are wrong.

  • +2 votes

    Fact: driving through red light regardless of emergency vehicle behind you is breaking the law.

    Variables: Different states, organisations, services and drivers of emergency vehicles have varying procedures.

    What a tall firetruck with airborne can see and do with traffic coming into an intersection is totally different to a copper in a low ford falcon with no airhorns, or even the ability to mount a kerb if needed.

    Some services will go contraflow to avoid being blocked in. That can be down to the organisations proceedures or even the ability or confidence of the driver at the time.

    Some emergency drivers have arrogance and self entitlement outside of their policies.

    The nature of the job being responded too may have a bearing on the urgency of the turnout too.

    But in a nutshell… An emergency driver taught well should always have their vehicle in a position of being in the right place, in the right lane at the right time to ensure they do not be blocked in… Thus not having to push someone along.

    I Have been driving ambulances and fire trucks for the past 24years in career capacities… So I have possibly seen it all and heard it all.
    And for what it's worth… We hate the sound of the sirens too.

    •  

      Reference to law that backs that up? Qld regulation section 78 subsection 3 doesn't seem to back your opinion.

      • +1 vote

        Stupid states messing with the unified Australian Road Rules, what a debacle!
        What was the point of unifying the rules ~15 years ago, if states were going to change them again?

    • -2 votes

      "But in a nutshell… An emergency driver taught well should always have their vehicle in a position of being in the right place, in the right lane at the right time to ensure they do not be blocked in… Thus not having to push someone along." Have you ever failed? Why always the right lane? LOL

  •  

    I’d always thought that you should move through a red light to allow an emergency vehicle to continue (if safe, and only enough for them to pass of course). I’ve never had to do that however. Plenty of times I have seen the emergency vehicle cross to the wrong side and cautiously pass any stopped vehicles if there is a red light. Most drivers will sit there and wait for t to get through the intersection if the light goes green. The emergency vehicles seem to make the decision to cross over to the wrong side fairly early and don’t sit there waiting.

    Learned something new today.

  •  

    QLD ROAD RULES - NOTE SUBSECTION 3: DESPITE ANY OTHER SECTION OF THIS REGULATION.


    78 Keeping clear of police and emergency vehicles

    (1)A driver must not move into the path of an approaching policeor emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or redlight (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm.Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.

    (2)If a driver is in the path of an approaching police or emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or redlight (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm, the driver must move out of the path of the vehicle as soon as the driver can do so safely.Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.

    (3)This section applies to the driver despite any other section of this regulation.

    I am no lawyer, but until anybody can give me a different legal interpretation of "despite any other section of this legislation", it means to me that when you can "do so safely", you get out of the way, even if it means doing things that otherwise would be illegal.

    •  

      I am no lawyer, but until anybody can give me a different legal interpretation of "despite any other section of this legislation"

      Your question says "legislation" but your quote of point 3 says "regulation". They are very different things.

      •  

        In QLD it is legal to run a red to give way to an emergency vehicle with lights and/or siren activated.

        Emergency vehicles
        
        Police, fire and ambulance vehicles are emergency vehicles.
        
        If an emergency vehicle is coming towards you and is sounding an alarm or showing flashing red or blue lights, you must move out of its path as soon as you can do so safely.
        
        You should:
        slow down
        move left to give the vehicle a clear run down the middle of the road. If you can’t move left safely, stay where you are and let the emergency vehicle overtake you should not move your vehicle suddenly
        
        not drive into the path of the emergency vehicle.
        
        The law allows you to drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so.
        
        However giving way to emergency vehicles should always be done with the utmost care and with the safety of yourself and all other road users as a priority.
        

        https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/other/emergenc...

  •  

    You need to possibly re-sit your driver's licence test.

  •  

    There is no right and wrong answer, every instance of an event like this is purely situational.
    The driver of the emergency vehicle should assess the risks vs the benefit. Red lights are probably the most dangerous part of urgent duty driving.
    In saying that, you will not ever know what they are responding to and how urgent it may be.

    If safe, simply move out of the way. This doesn't necessarily mean blowing straight through the red light with foot flat, perhaps creeping forward and to the left, enough to allow the vehicle to creep through. Again, every time is situational. At the end of the day if it isn't safe to do, don't do it