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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. (See Section 375 (41) of the Vehicle & Traffic Law.)

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.

Blue Light A flashing blue light indicates a volunteer fire fighter responding to an emergency call.
Green Light A flashing green light indicates a volunteer ambulance service member responding to an emergency call.
Amber Light A flashing amber light, indicates a hazard vehicle engaged in a hazardous operation (i.e., snowplow, tow-truck, utility company vehicle).

NOTE: In cities with a population over 1 million, a flashing amber light may be used on the vehicle of an individual who is a member of a volunteer civil or crime patrol.

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 states:

Every operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of such highway and such authorized emergency vehicle is displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter. For operators of motor vehicles on parkways or controlled access highways, such due care shall include, but not be limited to, moving from a lane which contains or is immediately adjacent to the shoulder where such authorized emergency vehicle displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter is parked, stopped or standing to another lane, provided that such movement otherwise complies with the requirements of this chapter including, but not limited to, the provisions of sections eleven hundred ten of this title and eleven hundred twenty-eight of this title.

This law took effect January 1, 2011.


Safety Tips
Emergency Light
Emergency Vehicle Safety & EMS
Index & Overview

Hydrant

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.)

Hydrant

According to § 1144 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:

  • When approached (from the front or rear) by an emergency vehicle whose lights and siren are activated, the driver of every other vehicle must yield the right of way.
  • In yielding the right of way, the driver must immediately pull over to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway, parallel to the roadway, and clear of any intersection. (In the case of a one-way divided highway, three lanes or more in width, the driver may pull to the left or right edge of the roadway, whichever is closer for an emergency vehicle approaching from behind only.)
  • The vehicle shall stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle or vehicles have passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
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.
Hydrant

Don't follow that fire truck!

  • Following within 200 feet of a fire truck which is responding to an emergency is against the law! (V&T Law, § 1217)
  • Parking within the same block, or if there is no block, within 1,000 feet of a fire truck stopped to answer an alarm is also illegal.
Hydrant

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. (V&T Law, § 1218)


Related Sites & Sources
Emergency Light
Emergency Vehicle Safety & EMS
Index & Overview