Traffic citations can have a negative impact on your vehicle insurance in Calgary, and one serious infraction to avoid is failing to react properly when you encounter an emergency vehicle. Being courteous to police cars, fire trucks and ambulances isn’t just better for your financial bottom line; it’s also common courtesy and an essential part of being a good citizen.
Remember: these vehicles are responding to dire situations, often involving matters of life and death. Wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, it can wait a few seconds until the emergency vehicles have safely passed.
What to Do When You Encounter an Emergency Vehicle
The City of Calgary offers a free, comprehensive handbook of helpful driving tips, which covers the proper procedures for giving way to emergency vehicles along with a complete list of other important best practices. Even if you’re an experienced driver, it’s a good idea to carefully review the information it offers.
There are five key things you need to do every time you encounter an emergency vehicle while driving:
- Pull to the right. You should move as far to the right as you can safely get to allow the emergency vehicle to proceed unimpeded. Emergency vehicles are often travelling at a high rate of speed, so you should always be aware of your surroundings. Get in the habit of checking your rear-view mirror periodically as you scan the road, and keep music levels low enough that you’ll be able to hear a siren approach from behind.
- Signal. Before you start to pull over, be sure to activate your right-hand turn signal. This simple action isn’t just a good safety tip; it can also help drivers behind you clue in to the situation if they haven’t yet noticed the vehicle approaching.
- Slow down. If you come across an emergency vehicle that’s on the side of the road with its lights flashing, reduce your speed to no more than 60 km/h if you’re on a highway or 40 km/h if you’re in the city. This is especially important if you’re in the lane closest to where the emergency vehicle is stopped.
- Do not follow. Some people are curious; others might just want to ride the emergency vehicle’s tail through an intersection. Both are serious offences that come with stiff fine, and you should never engage in this kind of driving behaviour, least of all if the emergency vehicle is passing through a red light.
- Leave room. Once the emergency vehicle has safely passed you, you’re free to continue driving, but be sure to leave a generous following distance. Emergency vehicles often make sudden manoeuvres, and they need extra room to navigate traffic.
Don’t Forget about Tow Trucks
Many drivers forget that Alberta law requires them to adhere to these same principles when a tow truck comes up from behind with its lights flashing. The Government of Alberta offers further tips on dealing with tow trucks, which can be summarized as follows:
- Be sure to adhere to all commands given by anyone directing traffic
- Slow down, especially if a tow truck driver or emergency crew member is on the road; they are at increased risk of being struck by a passing vehicle
- Remember that speeding fines are doubled if you pass a stopped emergency vehicle at a velocity exceeding 60 km/h
You can review full details from the Traffic Safety Act here.
Reporting Impaired Drivers
While you are not required by law to report a driver you suspect of being impaired, you are strongly encouraged to do so. Taking a moment to alert authorities could save lives. If you notice a vehicle driving erratically, weaving in and out of lanes or otherwise struggling to retain control, pull over or use your hands-free device to call 911 or the local police and provide them with the following details:
- The make and model of the vehicle
- Its license plate number
- The location and direction of travel
Don’t make this phone call while your vehicle is in motion; just note the aforementioned particulars, pull safely off the road and submit your report. You can also report other dangerous driving behaviours if you feel they are endangering other motorists.
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