Make way for the blue lights and sirens

Make way for the blue lights and sirens!

Infrastructure

Apr 2016

How should I respond if I see an emergency vehicle appear behind me with blue lights flashing and siren wailing? This is a question drivers are faced with time and again. The main thing, first of all, is not to panic. Instead, stay calm and figure out what’s happening. Where is the noise coming from? In what direction is the emergency vehicle – or emergency vehicles – traveling? How many emergency vehicles are there? Once you have answered these questions, reduce your speed to the extent necessary and, if in dense traffic or a traffic jam on highways or on multi-carriageway roads, form a “rescue corridor” through which the emergency vehicle(s) can pass.

This rescue corridor has been mandatory since 2012 in only four EU countries – Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. In Switzerland and Slovenia, rescue corridors are voluntary. A rescue corridor is a free section of road between the outermost lane on the left (in righthand traffic) and the lane next to it that allows emergency vehicles to pass through. The drivers in the left lane have to move over to the left as far as they can go and those in the right over to the right as far as they can go. On multilane carriageways, drivers in the left lane move over to the left as far as they can go, while everyone else moves right. This rule applies in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and Switzerland. In the Czech Republic, the rescue corridor must be formed on sections with more than two lanes in one direction, between the middle and right lane. Vehicles in the right lane have to move over to the right as far as they can go, while everyone else moves over to the left as far as they can go.

Something else that is important: Don’t only think about forming a rescue corridor when traffic is at a standstill. In traffic jams, when vehicles are already very close to each other, it can often be difficult to move over to the side to form a corridor, which is why drivers should always stick to the edge of their lane in congestion so that the rescue corridor remains open. And whether in an accident or an emergency, if you have to leave the vehicle, all occupants if possible should wear a standards-compliant reflective vest and head for the side of the road where it is safe. It is a good idea to carry as many reflective vests in your car as there are occupants – in fact, in some European countries, this is prescribed by law.