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Smile, breathe and go slowly: tips from IAM RoadSmart

Emergency vehicles are everywhere, going at unexpected speeds responding to the needs of the public. They do not expect you to put yourself or others in danger to facilitate this. This week’s tips give advice on how to handle approaching emergency vehicles whilst travelling on the roads, from IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards Richard Gladman.

  • If an emergency service vehicle (ambulance, police etc.) is approaching remain calm. Try to look for the most suitable place to give way. Reacting out of fear can make the situation longer and more difficult than it needs to be


  • Be prepared to pull over and stop if it is safe to do so, always making sure there is enough room for the vehicle to pass. Drivers of emergency vehicles have had the training to negotiate you – allow them to use the skills they have in ‘blue light’ situations


  • Remain patient. If you notice a road is closed it is being done for safety or to gather evidence. Take that into consideration and don’t take out any anger or frustration. If you see an emergency vehicle stopped, slow down and give it a wide birth – there could be people rushing around


  • Let’s not add to the drama and place others in danger. For instance passing through a red light to give way is not the correct way to handle the situation. Do not put yourself in danger by moving through a red traffic light into moving traffic, you have no exemption and will be responsible for any accident caused. At a roundabout remember the traffic behind you may not be aware of an approaching emergency vehicle so avoid an emergency stop


  • This may not seem like rocket science but never try to overtake a moving vehicle unless you have been instructed to do so by a member of the emergency services. Signal your intent; often a nearside indicator and a slight slowing down is the only invitation the other driver requires. They can then make a positive decision to pass you

Richard said: “Refer back to the Highway Code rule 219 which refers to emergency services, doctors and highways vehicles: ‘Do not panic, consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass whilst complying withal traffic signs. Do not endanger yourself or other road users.’ Stay safe and help where you can but the last thing the emergency services driver wants is you having a collision as they will have to stop and not get to their emergency.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Richard Gladman is IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards.
  2. IAM RoadSmart has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests. IAM RoadSmart is the trading name of all businesses operated by the UK’s largest road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and was formed in April 2016 combining the IAM, IAM Drive & Survive, PDS and IAM Driver Retraining Academy. The organisation has 92,000 members and campaigns on road safety on their behalf. At any one time there are over 7,000 drivers and riders actively engaged with IAM RoadSmart’s courses, from members of the public to company drivers, while our Driver Retraining Academy has helped 2,500 drivers to shorten their bans through education and support programmes.

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