Many motorists panic when they hear emergency vehicle sirens, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
The road safety charity says the problem comes because learner drivers are not taught, as a matter of routine, what they should do when they see flashing blue lights in their mirrors or hear the blast of a siren approaching fast.
Staying calm is the first rule, says Peter Rodger, Britain’s top advanced driver.
His five top tips on how to respond when encountering an emergency vehicle are:
1. Keep calm – if you hear a siren or see blue lights, turn off your music so you can concentrate, and take a few seconds to plan your next move. Panicking and stopping in the wrong place will just snarl up the traffic and delay the emergency vehicle more.
2. Stop – look for somewhere to pull over, and stop if it’s safe, even if the emergency vehicle is on the other side of the road. Consider using your indicators, but only if it won’t confuse other road users.
3. Stay safe – avoid pulling on to kerbs, pavements and verges. Verges can hide a multitude of hazards, and moving on to the pavement can put pedestrians at risk.
4. Stay legal – at traffic lights or junctions, emergency drivers will try to find their way around you. If you go through a red light or into a bus lane, unless directed by a police officer to do so, you are breaking the law and could be fined, irrelevant of your good intentions.
5. Finally – be aware that there may be more than one emergency vehicle coming. Listen for different sirens, look all around before moving off, and bear in mind you may need to move over again.
Peter said: “Loud sirens and flashing blue lights cause many motorists to panic, mainly because drivers are not routinely taught how to respond to them. Emergency vehicle drivers want you to help them reach the emergency they are trying to get to so that they can deal with it as quickly as possible. Behave calmly, legally, safely and predictably and move out of the way as soon as it is safe to do so.”