Clearing the way for emergency vehicles can help save lives, but get it wrong and helping your fellow citizens could end up costing you £1000s in fines, adding points to your licence and bumping up insurance premiums.
Here are the mistakes we make when jumping out of the way to let the likes of police, ambulance and fire service emergency vehicles pass…
1) Entering a bus lane
Making way for an emergency vehicle might seem more important than keeping the UK’s bus lanes free, but this is not the case. Motorists making space for a blue-light vehicle will be committing an offence if they enter a bus lane – and potentially become liable for a fine.
Drivers who enter a bus lane and then stop moving as the emergency vehicle passes will have a better chance of not getting a penalty. This defence was highlighted as plausible in the 2013 case of Doctor Catherine Berry, a lecturer in cell engineering, who received and challenged a £60 fine for pulling into one of the city’s a bus lanes to make way for a fire engine on blue lights.
What is the possible punishment: Fines for bus-lane incursions are set locally, but in Greater London you’ll be fined £130 and typically £60 outside metropolitan areas.
2) Going through a red light
No. Motorists are not allowed to jump a red light to let an emergency vehicle drive by. In this situation it is the responsibility of the blue-light vehicle to find its way through. If there is no hope of progress, the vehicle is likely to switch off its siren to prevent drivers feeling pressured into going jumping the red light – endangering themselves and other road users.
The only exception to this rule is if a uniformed police officer directs the driver through a red light. In this situation, you will not be fined and the officer will ensure the action is safe.
What is the possible punishment: This offence will attract three penalty points on your licence and a fine of up to £1,000. However, drivers are likely to be dealt with by a fixed penalty notice of £100 and the three points. The punishment will be more severe if an accident occurred as a result of ignoring the signal.
3) Exceeding the speed limit
It is never legal to break the speed limit however well-meaning your motivation is. In addition, you should never attempt to outrun an emergency vehicle even if you’re driving within the speed limit.
The advice here is to drive safely within the prevailing speed limit and pull over as soon as it is safe – and legal – to do so.
What is the possible punishment: The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence. However, you could receive up to 6 penalty points or even an instant ban. How much you can be fined has changed recently and is now worked out on how much earn. This is explained here.Calculate how much you might have to pay here.
4) Pulling over onto the pavement
The Highway Code does not offer a definitive answer to this one, but pulling onto the pavement to let an emergency vehicle pass is likely to be okay if no one is put in danger. However, in London, you could fall victim to Red Route restrictions and find yourself with a hefty fine.
There are also Red Routes on on some roads in the Midlands, but, unlike London, the exemption page for these red routes state that letting emergency vehicles by is a valid reason to stop on them.
What is the possible punishment: Getting caught stopping on one of London’s Red Routes could get you a fine – because letting emergency vehicle pass does not appear on the Transport for London Exemptions page. The fine will be up to £130.
5) Entering a box junction
These yellow perils have long been a bane to motorists and it’s no different for those who enter one to let an emergency vehicle proceed. Cameras situated on these box junctions will snap them, with a subsequent penalty likely to follow.
The Highway Code states: ‘You must not enter the box until your exit road or lane is clear.’
What is the possible punishment: Expect to be fined at least £50 for this ‘offence’ in most areas, but London boroughs often charge £100.
6) Using the hard shoulder of a motorway to let an emergency vehicle pass
When the motorway is congested, it’s likely that emergency vehicles will use the hard shoulder to reach the scene of an incident. Drivers who block this ‘emergency’ lane are likely to be fined – unless they are in an ’emergency’ situation. Stay on the main carriageway unless directed to do otherwise by the police or motorway traffic officer. Driving on a hard shoulder is extremely dangerous and the chances of getting a penalty notice are high.
What is the possible punishment: Driving on the hard shoulder could potentially attract a fixed penalty of three points and a fine of £100.