Driving protocols around ER vehicles


AAA Mid-Atlantic, D.C. Municipal Regulations, Department of Motor Vehicles


The latest report from AAA-Mid Atlantic states across DMV, roads 11 people have been killed and 53 injured in incidents involving emergency vehicles since 2010 and that doesn't even include the March 9 fatal firetruck accident in D.C.

DC driver Cheryl Doyle reached out to the Verify team asking what are the actual rules when it comes to driving on the roads when emergency vehicles are approaching?

And it's not just Cheryl wanting answers, on social media, people tweeted saying it's illegal not to pull over, another saying it's illegal to just come to a stop, and others just plain confused.

We checked the laws in DC, Maryland and Virginia--in Maryland and Virginia motorists must move over laws are in effect. If an emergency vehicle is approaching from an opposite direction with audible and visual signals, drivers should stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has safely passed by.

In DC, there is no move over law for emergency vehicles but according to D.C. Municipal Regulations, every other vehicle must yield the right of way to the emergency vehicle, and “shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb, of the roadway, clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.”

But AAA Mid- Atlantic said DC council is considering enforcing a $100 penalty for drivers who don't pull over.

Department of Motor Vehicles experts from DMV tell the Verify team it’s better to come to stop when driving even if emergency vehicles are in the opposite lane because you never know when they may need to swing into oncoming traffic lanes.

Here are some tips experts at AAA Mid-Atlantic give for driving on roads with emergency vehicles:

  • Pull to the right and come to a complete stop. If you are traveling on a high-speed road or in there is no room to stop, slow down as much as possible.
  • If you are in the left lane, pull over into the right lane as traffic in the lane to your right moves over.
  • On a four-lane highway or street without barriers, both sides of traffic should pull to the right.
  • When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind while you are stopped at an intersection, stay where you are unless you can pull to the right.

John Townsend, AAA Manager of Public and Government Affairs tells WUSA9 researcher for many motorists in the DC area it’s become a matter of background noise. “Since sirens sound so often in the metro area, many drivers and other highway users have grown desensitized to it.”