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What Should I Do When I Hear Sirens While Driving?

Posted on July 23, 2018

Emergency response vehicles in Alabama have a signature sound – loud, wailing sirens. Most drivers pull over to the side of the road to get out of the way when they hear this sound, but many people aren’t sure how to safely react. Knowing exactly what to do in these common situations can help you stay safe, helpful, and compliant with the laws. Here’s what to do in the event that you hear sirens approaching while driving in Alabama.

Be on the Lookout for Emergency Vehicles

Stay alert at all times for emergency vehicle horns and sirens. Don’t use headphones to listen to music while driving. If you hear a siren, try to discern the direction from which it is coming. If you see a firetruck, police car, ambulance, or other official vehicles with flashing lights and a siren, it is an emergency vehicle and you must get out of the way. Use your side and rearview mirrors to safely look at the road behind you. The sirens could be coming from an emergency vehicle traveling in the same direction as you.

Pull Over Immediately for Police Officers

If the sirens are coming from a police car directly behind you, pull over as soon as you safely can and follow the police officer’s instructions. You will see flashing red and blue lights behind you if this is the case. Police officers will use flashing lights and sirens to conduct most traffic stops, or only lights and no siren. If the officer is not trying to pull you over, he or she will pass you when you slow down or switch lanes.

Get Out of the Way

In the event that an emergency vehicle flips on its siren and is near where you’re driving, react calmly. Do not yank your wheel or slam on your brakes to get out of the way. A dangerous reaction could cause an accident. Instead, calmly apply the brakes to slow down your vehicle. If the emergency vehicle is coming in your direction, move carefully to the side of the road, signaling as you switch lanes. Get out of the way as quickly as you can, but with care not to cause a collision. If you cannot pull to the side of the road, move out of the emergency vehicle’s way as much as possible where you are.

Wait for the Vehicle to Pass

Stay put until the emergency vehicle has safely passed and you are no longer in its path. Watch the vehicle pass if you can, or listen carefully for the sirens to fade away from where you are. Make sure another emergency vehicle is not behind the first, as they often travel in pairs or groups to the same accident scene. If it’s safe to continue driving, safely reenter the roadway. Use your turn signal and merge back with traffic when it is safe to do so. Never try to pass an emergency vehicle or follow one to its destination.

Move Over for Stopped Emergency Vehicles

The Alabama Move Over Act requires all drivers to “move over” for emergency stopped vehicles. If an emergency or law enforcement vehicle is flashing its lights while rendering aid to someone on the side of the road, or if a service vehicle with flashing lights (such as a construction vehicle or dump truck) is stopped to complete official services, all other drivers must move one lane over to give the vehicle space, whenever possible.

If it’s not safe or possible to move over, the driver should slow down to at least 15 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. On a two-lane road, drivers should slow down and move as far away from the stopped emergency vehicle as possible. Violating the state’s Move Over Law can result in a fine of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $100 for a third offense.