Move to the left; it's a matter of life or death

Published: 9th August 2013

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher, today joined representatives from emergency service organisations to urge drivers to move out of the way of emergency vehicles travelling under lights and sirens on NSW roads.

The message follows concerns raised by firefighters, paramedics, police and emergency service volunteers about drivers not moving out of the way of vehicles travelling under lights and sirens.

“Seconds count in an emergency. If an emergency vehicle is approaching and is sounding an alarm or showing flashing lights, you must move to the left and out of the path of the vehicle as soon as you can do so safely.” Minister Gallacher said.

“An obstructed journey can be the difference between life and death."

Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Commissioner Greg Mullins said new air horns were being installed on some existing and new fire engines to further alert drivers of the need to move out of the way.

“We’re hoping these new air horns, with their distinctive sound, will draw the attention of drivers and pedestrians when fire engines respond to emergencies.”

“Fire & Rescue NSW fire engines weigh up to 15 tonnes and can be carrying 2000 litres of water when en route to an emergency. They don’t stop easily when a driver brakes suddenly or pulls out in front of them,” Commissioner Mullins said.

NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) Commissioner Murray Kear agrees with his emergency service counterparts.

“NSW SES rescue vehicles respond to a variety of life threatening situations in some regional areas, including flood rescues and road crash rescues,” Commissioner Kear said.

“In these situations optimising the response time is vital.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons congratulated those drivers who did the right thing, but said it was concerning that there were still some who blocked emergency services vehicles.

“It’s great to see that so many people on the roads do the right thing and I thank them for that.

“Our emergency services are there to help you; we ask that you help us quickly respond to our emergency calls by moving safely out of the way of our vehicles,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

The Centre for Road Safety General Manager, Marg Pendergast, said the road rules around emergency vehicles have to be followed to ensure all road users are safe.

“These road rules are easy to understand – do not block or move into the path of an emergency vehicle when they are using their lights or sirens,” Ms Pendergast said.

“Move to the left as quickly and safely as possible and remember never to stop near an incident in a position that obstructs traffic.

“Drivers must also give way, even if the emergency services vehicle would ordinarily be required to give way,” Ms Pendergast said.

NSW Police Traffic & Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, said motorists in the path of responding vehicles should stick to the basics when moving aside.

“Drivers who see a police or emergency vehicle with lights and sirens on should slow down, indicate and move out of the way.

“We want drivers to be alert to these emergency vehicles and then remain calm when they hear one, knowing that the vehicles are just trying to move around them,” Assistant Commissioner Hartley concluded.

Tips for assisting our emergency vehicles:

  • Do not panic
  • Slow down (but do not brake rapidly)
  • Use your indicators
  • Be aware of other motorists
  • Do not move suddenly or move into the path of the emergency vehicle
  • Move as far to the left of the road as you can and come to a stop.
  • If you cannot move out of the path safely, keep moving forward until it’s safe to move over.
  • Remember, you are required to abide by road rules at all times.