The sirens and flashing lights of police and other emergency vehicles such as ambulances serve a purpose other than making noise and color. They help alert the immediate community that a fast-moving vehicle is moving in response to an emergency and that they need to make way.
By North Carolina law, all drivers must make way for an emergency vehicle using its siren and emergency lights. Motorists who fail to yield to an emergency vehicle could face traffic tickets or even license suspensions.
Emergency vehicles – more than just ambulances and fire trucks
According to state rules, drivers must give way to an approaching law enforcement or emergency vehicle using warning signals such as sirens. An emergency vehicle isn’t just limited to fire trucks and ambulances – vehicles operated by the Division of Marine Fisheries, the Division of Parks and Recreation and the North Carolina Forest Service also count.
Yielding right of way
When approached by a law enforcement or emergency vehicle that’s giving warning signals, a driver must move their vehicle as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand edge of the street to give way. The driver must also stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle passes, or a traffic or law enforcement officer allows them to move.
But even if North Carolina has a law directing citizens to make way for emergency vehicles, drivers can unintentionally violate the rules in various ways. These include:
- Accidental blocking: Whether it’s because the road is too narrow, lacks space for an automobile to park or the driver’s vehicle is too big – maybe even all three – a vehicle might still obstruct the way of an emergency vehicle.
- Failing to come to a complete stop: On roads where there’s no shoulder, it might be difficult for some drivers to stop in a safe spot, which could draw the attention of traffic officers.
- Unfamiliarity with the law: According to a survey sponsored by the National Safety Commission, 71% of Americans indicated that they aren’t aware of any “move over” laws.
Regardless of the reason a driver couldn’t properly yield to an emergency vehicle, they could face penalties.
A driver who fails to yield to law enforcement or emergency vehicles can be issued a traffic ticket, which costs $250. On top of the fine, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation will assess three points to the driver’s license. If the driver accumulates 12 points within three years, the Department can suspend their license.
While drivers can waive a ticket for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, the offense will remain on their driving record. The record can impact their auto insurance premiums, not to mention a potential license suspension if the driver collects enough points. Drivers might want to consider disputing the ticket in court with the help of legal counsel.