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What Should I Do If I See an Emergency Vehicle?

Whether you’ve heard sirens behind you, seen flashing lights on the side of the road, or watched an ambulance fly through an intersection, we’ve all witnessed emergency vehicles rush to help a person in need.

As drivers sharing the road, it’s important to know how to act when you see an emergency vehicle to ensure the safety of:

  • The first responders
  • The victim(s) in need of help
  • The other drivers on the road
  • Your own vehicle

Hensley Legal Group interviewed local Fishers, Indiana firefighter Scott Carr for tips on how to react to emergency vehicles when you’re on the road:


1. How long have you been a firefighter?

I have been a firefighter for 20 years. I started in 1997 as a volunteer with Lawrence Township Fire Department (now IFD), then got hired part-time at Greenwood Fire Department in 1998, and then was hired full time with the Fishers Fire Department in 1999.

2. What should I do if I see an emergency vehicle approaching from behind me?

As soon as you are able to, pull to the right and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) pass. Always be aware that there may be more than one emergency vehicle coming.

3. Is it okay just to slow down or should I stop completely when an emergency vehicle is approaching?

Pull to the right and stop until they pass.


4. What should I do if I’m stuck in traffic and see an emergency vehicle approaching from behind me?

Try pulling to the right if possible. If you are unable to pull to the right, stay right where you are. As the emergency vehicle(s) get closer to you, traffic may adjust as other drivers see the emergency vehicles coming and may begin to move as well, freeing up room for you to move to the right.

5. What should I do if I see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road?

If an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, slow down and if there is an open lane to your left, move into that lane until you have passed the emergency scene and then carefully return to your original lane of travel.

6. What if I see an emergency vehicle in the opposite lane?

If the emergency vehicle is in the opposite lane and opposite direction of travel, you will still want to slow down, pull to the right if you are able to, and stop until they pass.


7. Does it matter if there’s a median and the emergency vehicle is in the opposite lane?

If there is a median in the roadway separating the lanes of travel, there is no need to pull over and stop as there would be no way for the emergency vehicle to access your travel lanes.

8. I can hear sirens but can’t see any flashing lights or emergency vehicles yet. Should I slow down?

If you are able to hear sirens, then chances are the emergency vehicles are close. I wouldn’t necessarily slow down in the middle of traffic if you hear sirens. However, it would be good to proceed with caution and be aware of your surroundings.

If you are approaching an intersection and you hear sirens, I would advise slowing down as you’re approaching and going through the intersection to make sure there are no emergency vehicles.

9. If I see an accident, should I call 9-1-1 or just assume that someone else has?

If you are able to safely call 9-1-1, then I would do that. Chances are that if you see the accident, then someone else did too. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that 9-1-1 has been contacted.

10. Do you have any safety tips you wish everyone knew? If so, what are they?

The biggest thing for me, as someone who drives the fire engine, is for people to pull to the right and stop when they see us coming.

A lot of times you will get a driver that will see us and do what they are supposed to do and pull right, but then the person behind them doesn’t understand why the vehicle in front is stopping, and without checking their mirrors will pull around them directly in front of us. Instances like that and when we are going through intersections are the highest probabilities of an accident occurring.

When we approach an intersection, if the light is red in our direction of travel, we have to come to a complete stop and visually clear the intersection prior to advancing through it. Just because one vehicle sees us trying to come through doesn’t mean that every vehicle will see us and stop as well.


In Fishers, we have something called an Opticom on all of our apparatus. Most of the stoplights in Fishers and many stoplights in Indianapolis and surrounding communities have something on the stoplights that picks up a signal sent from the Opticom on our apparatus. This signal will chance the stoplights in our direction of travel to green and the cross traffic lights to red. This helps us get through the intersection without incident. So if you ever see either a solid or flashing white bulb on the traffic light, an emergency vehicle is approaching the intersection.