Pull to the right for sirens and lights!

By Todd A. Warrick

Illinois law requires motorists to pull to the right, and off the side of the road if possible, and slow down to stop until emergency vehicles have passed. This applies to those approaching from behind and those coming toward you.

A problem often faced by firefighters, paramedics and police, are drivers who do not become aware of the approaching emergency vehicles until the last moment, then panic and stop wherever they happen to be.

Drivers who stop in the middle of an intersection or in the left lane only complicates the situation when other vehicles have done their best to pull to the right or out of the intersection. Motorists who fail to pull to the right make the available roadway very narrow for emergency vehicles to get through.

Emergency personnel understand the sudden surge of the surprise motorists normally experience at the sound and sight of a fire truck, ambulance or police car rapidly approaching with sirens and lights. But it’s important to think ahead. Train yourself to instinctively pull to the right at the sound/sight of emergency vehicles, just as you automatically slow and stop for school buses when their yellow and red lights begin flashing.

When driving, take a hint from other drivers: When you notice vehicles pulling to the right edge of the road on both sides, do the same and stay there until all emergency vehicles have passed.

Always be aware of your surroundings when driving. Constantly scan from side to side, scan your mirrors and look 30 and 60 seconds ahead. This will help you make a quick decision on what to do for an emergency whether it be for an emergency vehicle, or for a traffic situation.



  • Remain Calm!
  • Don’t Panic
  • Pull to the right and come to a stop
  • When on a high-speed road or when there is no room to stop, slow down as much as possible.
  • When in the left lane, pull over into the right lane as traffic in the lane to your right moves over.
  • If you cannot move to the right because of an obstacle such as a car to your right, simply stop. Your prompt action will let the driver of the emergency vehicle know what you are doing; it will allow the driver to anticipate where to drive.
  • When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind while you are stationary at an intersection, stop sign or red light, DO NOT move unless you can pull to the right.
  • On a 4-lane highway or street without barriers, both sides of traffic should pull to the right. (The emergency vehicle may have to turn in front of oncoming traffic.) 



  • Don’t stop in the middle lane when there is room to pull to the right.
  • NEVER MOVE TO THE LEFT! Emergency vehicle drivers are professionally trained and they use this lane as their “escape”.
  • Don’t drive through a red light or stop sign when an emergency vehicle approaches from behind.
  • Don’t turn quickly to the left into a driveway or street.
  • Don’t race ahead to get through a green light or turn before the emergency vehicle gets there.
  • Don’t disregard the presence of the emergency vehicle by continuing to drive.


Other Tips:

  • Be careful when driving by or around a motor vehicle accident or any situation where emergency vehicles are parked and the firefighters, police or medical personnel are working.
  • Drivers should stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.
  • Turn your radio down when you are in traffic and something “doesn’t seem right”.

Give emergency responders room to work! Remember the Scott’s Law. Do you know about the Scott’s law or have forgotten about it? Here’s some information on it:

Scott’s Law was passed in 2002 in honor of Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while assisting at a crash on a busy Chicago expressway.

Scott’s Law states:

When approaching a stationary emergency vehicle using visual signals, yield, change to a lane away from the emergency vehicle, and proceed with caution. If a lane change is notpossible, reduce speed and proceed with caution.

Construction Zones

When approaching or entering a highway construction or maintenance area, slow down, yield to any authorized vehicles or workers in the area, change to a lane away from the workers, and proceed with caution. If a lane change is not possible, reduce speed and proceed with caution.

Penalties for Offenses

  • Fines up to $10,000.
  • 90-day to two-year driver’s license suspension.

Emergency Vehicles

When being approached by an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals, immediately pull to the right side of the road and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass. If stopped at an intersection with two-way traffic, remain stopped until the emergency vehicle passes.

Funeral Processions

  • Motorists encountering a funeral procession must:
  • Yield the right-of-way to all vehicles in the procession.
  • Not drive between vehicles in an organized funeral procession, except when required to do so by a law enforcement officer.
  • Not join a funeral procession for the purpose of securing the right-of-way.
  • Not attempt to pass any vehicle in an organized funeral procession, except where a passing lane has been specifically provided.*


Todd A. Warrick EMTB

America Ambulance

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  1. Kairi Gainsborough

    This is great advice, especially for new drivers who might not have experienced an ambulance or another emergency vehicle on the road when they are driving. Your guide on how to react and what to do with your car when you see the lights and sirens is great. I never knew that you should never pull over to the left. If everyone knows these rules, then the flashing lights and sirens should be enough of a warning for everyone to make way.

  2. jeff cabine

    It really helped when you said drivers who are unaware of oncoming emergency vehicles until the last possible minute, panic, and halt wherever they are, are a common concern for firemen, paramedics, and police. I have a cousin who is doing a research paper and base on his research some drivers panic when they hear the sirens or see the lights. Thank you for the information about police lights.

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