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  • Doug Burgess

Red Rover Move Over...

What to do when you see emergency lights behind you.

As a police officer I have seen it all too often; the panic, or even confusion when my lights are activated and I'm coming up behind you. Drivers have stopped where they were, pulled to the left, kept driving and ignored me, slowed down, and yes, some have actually done what we were all instructed to do and pulled to the right and stopped. Some may ask, why does it matter as long as you can get where you're going? Let me explain it as best as I can and feel free to respond with questions of your own.

As I mentioned above, everyone was taught...or SHOULD have been taught, that when you see emergency lights behind you, you safely pull to the right hand side of the road and stop. Because of this, police are taught in the driving portion of the academy to drive in the left lane (the fast lane) when responding in an emergency. The idea is that as drivers see the flashing lights and pull to the right it leaves a clear lane and line of sight for the officer responding. "Why do I need to stop if I pull to the right and the officer is in the left lane", you might ask. Great question! Imagine this. Someone's life is on the line and I am responding appropriately at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. You have moved to the right lane but decided to continue driving the speed limit or even have slowed down a little as I am coming up on the left. What you don't know is that I need to turn right at the intersection we are both approaching; me at 50 mph and you now at 25 mph. I have two choices since you are still moving in the right lane, one to cut you off and risk causing an accident, or two, slow down and get behind you losing precious seconds when, seconds count in certain situations. Furthermore, if I slow down and suddenly get behind you to make the turn would you then think I was trying to pull you over and finally stop or slow down even more causing me to have to slow down as well or go around you again? Last, if you continue and think, well the officer is in the left lane and I'm turning right at this intersection so I don't need to slow down or stop but then the officer also turns right we have a whole new set of potential dangers.

The best and safest thing for all involved, is when you see emergency vehicles approaching from any direction, reduce your speed, move to the right when it's safe to do so and come to a stop until the emergency responder has passed you.

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