Blue lights in your mirror - how to react

Many of us have experienced it; you’re driving along when suddenly you hear an ear-splitting siren and your mirror is awash with flashing blue lights. Such a scenario can be pretty stressful. But it doesn’t have to be.

When peoples’ lives could be on the line and it’s your car that stands between the emergency vehicle and their time-critical destination, it’s tempting to throw the Highway Code out the window and do whatever it takes to get out of the way.

The other extreme that occasionally arises is you jam on the brakes and sit in the emergency vehicle’s path, hoping it’ll get around you. 

In any blue light situation, the number one rule is to not compromise your own safety

Unfortunately, both of these reactions are common and neither is the correct way to deal with the situation.

A survey found that most road users appear unsure of how to behave when approached by a vehicle on blue lights, with one in three willing to break the Highway Code and go through a red traffic light if an emergency vehicle came up behind them.

In any blue light situation, the number one rule is to not compromise your own safety. After all, if you get into an accident or cause an injury, that’s just another emergency that the blue light services will have to deal with.

To view a video explaining further the correct way to deal with blue lights, go to bluelightaware.org.uk, but in the meantime, here’s how to do it…

Listen

If you're driving and you hear a siren, turn down any music and work out where the sound is coming from. You may be able to hear the siren for some time before you see any blue lights.

Look

Once you spot the emergency vehicle you need to assess whether you need to move out of the way. Keep your eyes peeled for a safe place to pull over and stop.

Think

Think about the safest way for the emergency vehicle to get past. They come in all shapes and sizes from motorcycles to fire engines, so leave enough space for the vehicle to pass safely. When planning your manoeuvre, obey the law and the Highway Code. Stay off kerbs, pavements and verges and, if you're at traffic lights, don't go through a red light, as you'll be breaking the law. Stay behind the white line unless a uniformed police officer directs you to do otherwise. Also avoid entering bus lanes, and don't stop in an area of danger such as on a bend, on a road with double white lines or on the brow of a hill.

React

Don't panic; never slam on your brakes. Check your mirrors and see if the emergency vehicle is signalling to show the way they want to pass. Try to accommodate their request if safe to, and make the move at the earliest opportunity to avoid holding them up longer than necessary. Come to a stop gradually and always use your indicators to show other road users what you're planning to do. Your own safety is your priority.