Letter to Editor: Right Away Belongs to Emergency Vehicles

South San Francisco, CA   January 10, 2019  by a South City Resident

Hi, about an hour ago I was at El Camino and Spruce and as usual, there were lots of cars at the intersection.
There were fire engines and the paramedics trying to get up El Camino toward San Bruno. One engine was stuck at the light on El Camino because no one would get out of the way. They had their lights on and honestly I don’t see how they held back from just blasting their sirens at the cars.

Could you please publish the rules of the road for emergency vehicles and what people should do when they see those lights.

I can’t believe that people just sat there at the light, if they were the ones waiting for help they would want people to let the emergency vehicles through. Everyone should know what to do, these are situations where seconds count. People can be so stupid, it’s infuriating.

Thanks for letting me vent, I did yell from my car get out of the ? way, which had no effect.


Everything South City responds by adding the following information from the California Driver Handbook – Sharing the Road:


Emergency Vehicles

You must yield the right-of-way to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then, drive to the right as soon as it is safe and stop. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loudspeaker to talk to drivers blocking their path.

Yield to Emergency Vehicles
Diagram showing how to yield to an emergency vehicle.

You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal given by a traffic or peace officer, or a firefighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws.

It is against the law to follow within 300 feet behind any fire engine, police vehicle, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle with a siren or flashing lights (CVC §21706).

If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, collision, or other disaster, you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, firefighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

I noticed that fire engines often have their lights on, but no siren. When they are on the opposite side of the street or further behind, they are often hard to notice, especially during bright sunny days. Perhaps that is why the motorists didn’t get out of the way — they had no warning.

The DMV states “… using a siren and red lights”. It would be helpful to all if the fire engines used both.

2 years ago

One wonders how did some of these people pass their driver test: unable to diagonal park let alone parallel park; double parking and parking in a red zone with their emergency flashers on; illegal U-turns in a business district; headlights off when windshield wipers on (even some cops) and so on.