Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Emergency Vehicles & EMS

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Be Smart. Share the Road with Emergency Vehicles

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an emergency vehicle?

An emergency vehicle is defined as a police vehicle, ambulance or fire truck. These vehicles may have red, white or a combination of red and white lights which, when responding to an emergency, are constantly moving.

What should I do if I am approached by an emergency vehicle with its light and sirens going?

How far must I park from a fire hydrant?

Unless otherwise indicated by pavement markings, parking meters or official signs, you may not park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant. You may not stop or stand within 15 feet of a fire hydrant unless a licensed driver is in the front seat so the vehicle may be immediately moved in the event of an emergency.

What do different colored flashing lights mean on personal vehicles?

These lights are only to be used in the event of an emergency operation. The people who display and use these lights must have written permission from the authorized chief officer of the organization for which they are volunteering.

What should I do if I am approached by a personal vehicle with a colored light flashing?

These are not emergency vehicles. Their drivers must obey all traffic laws. You need not yield the right of way to these vehicles. However, if you can do so safely, you should yield the right of way to vehicles with blue or green flashing lights as a courtesy. Also, be cautious in the vicinity of a hazard vehicle.

Do I have to move over for emergency vehicles that are stopped on the road?

Yes, VTL §1144-a. Operation of vehicles when approaching a parked, stopped or standing authorized emergency vehicle or hazard vehicle or vehicle displaying a blue or green light. The "Move Over Law" took effect January 1, 2011. Originally the law covered emergency vehicles with flashing white and red lights. The law was updated to include vehicles with flashing amber lights (hazard vehicles such as tow trucks and help vehicles). The most recent upate includes vehicles displaying a blue or green light (volunteer fire and ambulance services).

Safety Tips

What should you do if an emergency vehicle approaches you with lights flashing and siren sounding?

  1. Speed up to stay in front of the vehicle.
  2. Pull over to the side of the road and stop until all emergency vehicles are safely by.
  3. Let them pass and follow the vehicle to the scene of the emergency.
  4. Pull over and stop only if the emergency vehicle is traveling in the same direction as you are.

(The correct answer is #2.)

According to § 1144 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:

Safety Tip:  When you are starting up from a stop after emergency vehicles have passed you, please look carefully behind you for other vehicles turning back into the roadway.

Don't follow that fire truck!

Did you know?
It is illegal to drive over a fire hose which is in use, unless otherwise instructed by the fire officer in command.