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Emergencies happen every day, and when they do, everyone on the road has an obligation to help crews get to the scene of an incident as quickly as possible.

A reader reached out to The Sacramento Bee’s service team, wondering if fire trucks are allowed to use their lights and sirens when returning to an emergency.

The question inspired us to look at state laws governing emergency vehicles in California and the responsibilities of everyday drivers on the road. Fire trucks, ambulances and law enforcement vehicles are all considered emergency vehicles, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Here’s what we found.

Red lights and sirens

According to California Code 21055, most emergency vehicles cannot sound their sirens when responding to an incident.

Fire trucks have more room than others under California Vehicle Code 21055.

The red motorbikes can bypass traffic rules and use their sirens and red lights, even when returning from an incident, as long as they are on their way to another. This can be from one fire station to another or to another location of an emergency.

If there is no incident, emergency vehicles are subject to the same traffic rules as everyone else on the road.

You can’t break the rules either

That same state law — California Vehicle Code 21055 — gives emergency vehicles such as police cars and ambulances the authority to bypass traffic laws when responding to an incident.

But just because emergency services can break the rules of the road, that doesn’t mean you can too. Non-emergency vehicles are still subject to the same (or more restrictive) traffic laws than usual, even if a police car is speeding down the shoulder of a highway.

Move over and slow down

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, emergency vehicles have the right of way when their sirens and red lights are on.

You are expected to stop and stop until an emergency vehicle has passed, according to California Vehicle Code 21806.

​​​​If you see a stopped emergency vehicle with hazard lights flashing, change lanes and reduce your speed. If you are at a crossroads, drive on and get to the right side of the road as quickly and as safely as possible.

Don’t get too close

Keep your distance from emergency vehicles when they respond to a call. Drivers cannot be within 300 feet of an emergency vehicle when a siren or flashing lights are activated, according to the California DMV.

Police escorts are exempt from this rule, according to California Civil Code 21706.

Illegal to drive to an emergency

According to the California DMV, you can be arrested for driving to the scene of a fire, crash or other disaster if you obstruct the path of emergency crews.

What do you want to know about life in Sacramento? Ask our service journalism team your top-of-mind questions in the module below or email servicejournalists@sacbee.com.

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Brianna Taylor covers affordability in The Sacramento Bee’s service journalism desk, as well as general news. Before joining The Bee in 2021, she reported in Missouri and Maryland. She grew up on the East Coast and is a graduate of Morgan State University.

#Red #Lights #Sirens #California #Emergency #Vehicle #Laws

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