Most people know that you have to give way to emergency vehicles in NSW. Do you know what give way means?

Under the Road Rules, give way in this context means either:

* if the driver is stopped-remain stationary until it is safe to proceed, or
* in any other case-slow down and, if necessary, stop to avoid a collision.

This rule applies to the driver despite any other rule that would otherwise require the driver of a police or emergency vehicle to give way to the driver.

 

So what should I do?

 

We have heard people say that you must drive through a red light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, or pull over to the left and stop, indeed one government website tells you have to pull over to the left and stop. Neither of this is required, nor protected by law.

There is, for instance, no legislation that provides that you can pull into a bus lane or a left turn only lane to give way to an emergency vehicle. Equally if the other drivers don't see the emergency vehicle, and by pulling over to the left you cause an accident then you are at fault for that accident.  

What the legislation requires is that you either remain stopped, or slow down and stop.  The legislation also forbids you moving into the path of the emergency vehicle, though you probably knew that.  Lastly, the legislation  requires you to move out of the path of the emergency vehicle as soon as you can safely do so, and this is probably where the confusion around 'moving to the left' comes from.  Note that you don't have to move to the left, just out of the way, this might involve changing lanes to the right but continuing to move forward so that you don't cause an accident in that line of traffic.  This might involve continuing to travel forward because you cannot safely move to the left and stopping would simply slow down the emergency vehicle. 

If you think it is safest to pull over to the left, and you can pull over to the left then it is fine to do that, but you are not required to do that.

If you feel you should do something else to get out of the way of the vehicle then exercise extreme caution.  You do this at your own risk and will be at fault if an accident occurs.  Do not take action that would be illegal, such as entering an intersection against a red light, or pulling into a bus lane and stopping.