Red light ahead, blue light behind
THE ISSUE of what to do if you’re at a set of traffic lights and there’s an emergency vehicle trying to get through has long been unclear and contentious. Do you stay where you are and risk blocking the emergency vehicle’s way? Or do you edge over the white line, through the red traffic signal, potentially putting yourself in danger, as well as breaking the law?
Providing clear guidance for this specific issue was central to the thinking behind the Blue Light Aware resource, and a great deal of time was put in to consult with the emergency services on what should be said. Rule 219 of the Highway Code gives no specific advice, yet the truth is that it is against the law form anyone to ‘run’ a red traffic light, unless they’re an emergency service vehicle on a blue light run. The requirement is for the emergency vehicle to find its way through, or around other traffic. That’s why, on most occasions, an emergency vehicle needing to make progress across
a traffic light junction would not put itself behind another vehicle in the traffic light queue, but would, where the road layout and traffic conditions permit, move out to present itself and its intention to cross the junction.
Of course, there will be times when there simply is no room for an emergency service vehicle to get past, or perhaps its crew are activated by their control room to respond to an emergency while they are waiting with everyone else at the traffic lights. On these occasions, they know that other motorists are not allowed to ‘jump’ the red light, and the emergency vehicle would ideally not activate its sirens and lights until it was safe for the vehicle in front to cross the solid white line at the junction.
On the (hopefully) rare occasions that a blue light vehicle, in ’emergency mode’, is sitting behind another vehicle at a red traffic light, it’s important to appreciate that it would be both very dangerous and illegal for the other vehicle to move across the solid white line. The exception to this is that a uniformed police officer can direct a motorist through a red traffic signal. This sometimes happens if a police motorcyclist is part of a ‘special escort’ team and needs to clear and secure a junction, thus allowing a security convoy to pass through the junction.