Yielding to an Emergency Vehicle

“Fail to Yield for Emergency Vehicle” – BC Motor Vehicle Act, Section 177, 3 driver penalty points, $109.00 fine.

One of the primary complaints of anyone who drives an emergency vehicle for a living is when other drivers fail to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle driving Code Three (lights and sirens). 

For the most part, I find the citizens of Vancouver are alert and know what to do when a police car, ambulance or fire truck in full Code Three mode comes up behind them – the citizens pull over to the closet side of the road giving the emergency vehicle plenty of room to get by.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  You do not know how much we appreciate it when you do this!

But then there are times when a citizen gets the ‘deer in the headlights’ look and freezes.  In times like these, no amount of frantic waving or sirens on the part of the officer is going to get the person to move.  I know.  It happens to me.  At least once every time I drive Code Three, which happens at least once a shift.  You do the math.  But I digress…

Once, while driving in a marked police car, I heard an ambulance coming up behind me.  Their lights were flashing and their siren was wailing as they drove to an urgent medical call.  So I did as you are supposed to do – I pulled over to the side of the road (yes, even police cars do this in respect for other emergency vehicles if not also responding to an emergent call).  There were other vehicles on the road at the time, and they too pulled over. 

Then there was this one driver travelling in the same direction as the ambulance.  He kept on driving, effectively blocking the ambulance.  The ambulance couldn’t go around him as the guy was straddling two lanes and the ambulance was hemmed in by a cement median.  As the two vehicles passed me, the driver of the car started to slow down and then rolled through the next intersection, still without stopping.  As it turned out, this was the intersection where the ambulance was trying to turn at, and there was a near-miss collision between the two vehicles.  Imagine my surprise when the civilian honked his horn and proceeded to pop his middle finger up at the ambulance. 

When the ambulance completed its turn and continued on to whatever call it was going to, I pulled in behind the driver of the car and initated my own emergency equipment.  If you guessed that the guy failed to stop for me as well, then you guessed correctly.  He wasn’t driving all that fast, but he finally got the hint when I pulled up beside him and pointed at the side of the road.

The driver was less than cordial when I approached his car, and he was most upset when I explained why I had pulled him over.  Well, ‘most upset’ is a bit of an understatement.  He was furious.  Even after I explained that he was bound by law to yield to an emergency vehicle by pulling over to the side of the road and stopping, he screamed at me that he had ‘slowed down’, that slowing down was all he was prepared to do, and it wasn’t his fault if the ambulance driver didn’t know how to drive. 

He was none too pleased about the violation ticket I issued him for the offence, and kicked up a fuss, swearing and yelling that he was going to have my job and that he would see me in court.  I let him vent, and he eventually calmed down enough to drive away. 

The fellow never did dispute the ticket, though.  He paid the fine and the points were added to his licence.  Too bad.  I would have loved to have heard his version of events in the courtroom.

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