When you are driving and can hear the sirens of an emergency vehicle, it is natural to panic about what to do next. You may feel pressure to get out of the way of the vehicle as quickly as possible but it is important not to put yourself, other road users or pedestrians in danger.

What are the different types of emergency vehicle?

Emergency vehicles can be ambulances, police, fire engines or other emergency vehicles with flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Highways Agency Traffic Officer and Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights.

In certain situations, a police officer in an unmarked vehicle displaying a blue light may signal for you to stop. Click here for advice about getting pulled over by the police.


Three steps to remember when responding to an emergency vehicle:

  1. Don’t panic – if you see or hear an emergency vehicle, turn off any music that’s playing and ask any passengers to keep quiet so that you can concentrate. Once you’ve worked out where the vehicle is approaching from, think carefully about the safest action to take.
  2. Pull over and stop once it is safe to do so. Use your indicators to show your intentions to other road users.
  3. Wait for the emergency vehicle to pass and watch out for any further emergency vehicles on the approach. Check to make sure the way is clear before continuing your journey.
Top tip: If you can hear the siren but can’t see the emergency vehicle, look out for other drivers who are slowing down or pulling over, as this may reveal the direction of the emergency vehicle.

Check out this handy step by step guide to reacting to an emergency vehicle:

Additional advice:

  • Avoid stopping before the brow of a hill, a bend or a narrow section of road as this may put your vehicle in danger.
  • If you are on the motorway, be aware that the emergency vehicle will use the hard shoulder if all lanes are blocked.
  • Make sure you never block a road junction as this could hold up the emergency vehicle.
  • Watch out for the actions of other vehicles – they may panic and react impulsively to the sound of sirens by braking sharply or pulling over without signalling. Keep a safe distance from other road users and remain vigilant.
  • If you are stopped at a red traffic light with an emergency vehicle behind you, wait until the lights turn green before pulling over as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Similarly if you are stopped at a box junction with an emergency vehicle behind you, wait until the exit road is clear before entering the box junction.
Did you know? If you enter a bus lane to let an emergency vehicle past, you are liable to a fixed penalty fine.

Check out this video by THINK which looks at the emergency vehicle driver’s point of view: