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Ask a Trooper: Yielding to emergency vehicles

May 1, 2015
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: If you are driving down the interstate and an ambulance comes up behind you with his lights and sirens on are you required to pull over and stop like you would on a 2 lane road? I ask because I never see anyone pull over to a complete stop on the interstate. Thanks for educating me!

A: This is an issue that I have witnessed in my own experience responding to emergency calls on four lane roadways. I attribute much of this issue to motorists becoming complacent on multi-lane roadways. The illusion here is that some motorists believe emergency vehicles always have an open lane; therefore they don't have to pay attention to their mirrors. Add these motorists to the ones that are otherwise distracted by texting and you have a recipe for slower response times. Few experiences are more frustrating to emergency personnel than vehicles not yielding the right of way during an emergency run.

Iowa code section 321.324 addresses this issue in the following manner

'Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle with any lamp or device displaying a red light or red and blue lights, or an authorized emergency vehicle of a fire department displaying a blue light, or when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed'

If an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind, you need to yield regardless of the roadway type. If the emergency vehicle is approaching you from the front, you are not required to yield if there is a median or other traffic barrier between the lanes. Meeting emergency lights on a 2 lane road does require the motorist to yield, as directed above. A violation of this code section carries a $195 fine.

Yielding to emergency vehicles has never been an issue for me when I'm in my personal vehicle. Perhaps this is because I am regularly on the other side of those lights trying to get to a call. Would motorists react differently if they saw it from our perspective?

Please pay us the respect of pulling over when we are behind you. It might be your family we are trying to help.

 
 
 

 

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