How to respond to emergency vehicles

Author: Dabney Weems

Law enforcement and first responders work tirelessly to keep the public safe day and night. They navigate the roads, especially in times of emergencies, to ensure that everyone remains safe. During these times, it is important that drivers respond correctly to qualified vehicles with flashing lights (e.g. law enforcement, EMS, fire, tow truck and utility vehicles). Let’s briefly review procedures to ensure the roadways are safe for the public, law enforcement and first responders.

The Move Over Law

North Carolina’s Move Over Law took effect in 2002. The law requires motorists, if they can safely do so, to move one lane away from qualified vehicles with flashing lights that are stopped on the side of the road. Effective July 1, 2006, fines increased to $500 along with the possibility of being charged with a felony if a collision occurs that results in serious injury or death. Take the time to move over, it’s for the safety for all and provides additional space for personnel to do their jobs.

Emergency Vehicle In Motion

A. If an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind:
Two lane road:

  • Pull over to the edge of the road and stop.
  • Keep your foot on the brake. This alerts emergency responders you have stopped.
  • Once the responders have passed through, return to the road. Never follow an emergency vehicle to get through a light.
  • Drivers should stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.

Stopped at an intersection:

  • Stay where you are unless you can pull to the right.

Four lane highway (without barriers):

  • Both sides of traffic should pull to the right.

B.  If an emergency vehicle approaches from the opposite direction:

  • Pay attention to the situation and the area around you, use caution and yield, if needed.

Color of Lights

Emergency vehicles utilize a variety colors to signify the nature of the emergency and the type of responder.

  • Red lights - signify a fire, ambulance or fire volunteer is responding to a call.
  • Blue lights - are used by law enforcement officers. 
  • Amber/Yellow - signify a vehicle engaged in roadside service (tow truck, utility vehicle, snowplow, etc.). 
  • Green lights - indicate an ambulance volunteer member is responding to a call.

Please remember to respond safely and appropriately as you Move Over for the safety of all involved. 


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