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Tips for Driving Safely Around Emergency Vehicles

Recognizing the importance of driving safely around emergency vehicles in Wisconsin goes beyond just following rules – it’s also about safeguarding lives in moments that truly matter. Your actions on the road can impact emergency personnel’s swift and effective response.

Understanding how to yield the right-of-way, reduce speed, and create a safe buffer around these vehicles is a legal requirement. However, it’s also a compassionate gesture that ensures the well-being of those who dedicate their lives to helping others.

Wisconsin’s Move Over Law

Wisconsin’s Move Over Law, outlined in state statute 346.072, is a critical safety measure to protect emergency workers and vehicles on the roadside. When approaching a stationary emergency or utility vehicle with flashing lights, drivers must either move to a non-adjacent lane or reduce their speed. 

This law applies to law enforcement, emergency vehicles, utility vehicles, tow trucks, and highway maintenance vehicles. It creates a protective zone or buffer for these emergency workers, allowing them to carry out their essential tasks without the heightened risk of collisions. 

Are There Exceptions to Moving Your Car Off the Road?

While you must always adhere to the state’s Move Over Law, a few situations may change how you maneuver your vehicle. If you are in heavy traffic or on a single-directional lane road, you may be unable to move your car to another lane. However, you can do the following:

  • Reduce speed: Slow down your vehicle if you can’t change lanes safely due to traffic conditions or road layout. Maintaining a reduced speed allows better control and reaction time if unexpected situations arise. It’s also required per the state statute for passing stopped emergency or roadside vehicles.
  • Stay alert: Watch your surroundings, especially when passing an emergency or roadside service vehicle. Be prepared to react to sudden changes in traffic or any emerging hazards. This means avoiding distractions such as the radio, electronics, or talking with passengers when you see a nearby emergency vehicle.
  • Give space: While you might not have the option to change lanes, try to create additional distance between your vehicle and the emergency or roadside service vehicle. Per Statute 346.072(1m), you should proceed cautiously if you see an emergency vehicle standing or parked within 12 feet of a roadway.
  • Communicate intention: Use your vehicle’s hazard lights or other signals to indicate your intention to other drivers. This extra precaution can help alert those around you to the presence of an emergency or roadside service vehicle.
  • Yield when possible: If conditions improve and you find an opportunity to change lanes safely or provide more space, do so. Yielding to emergency responders and workers on the roadside is a respectful and safety-conscious choice.

Considerations for Enacting the Move Over Law in an Emergency Situation

Safely clearing a path for emergency vehicles in traffic demands a calm and calculated response. When you hear sirens or see flashing lights, take the following actions:

  • Check your rearview and side mirrors to identify the approaching emergency vehicle’s direction.
  • Gradually and smoothly, begin decelerating, signaling your intention to those around you.
  • As you slow down, guide your vehicle toward the closest side of the road, creating a clear path for the emergency vehicle.
  • Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you, allowing ample room for the emergency vehicle to maneuver between lanes if necessary.

While the situation’s urgency may be pressing, remember not to jeopardize your safety or that of others by making sudden lane changes, aggressive maneuvers, or violating traffic laws. Your composed and controlled response ensures you contribute to a smooth traffic flow, allowing emergency responders to reach their destination swiftly and securely.

Need Legal Help? Schedule a Free Consultation

At Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers, we understand the critical importance of safe practices on the road, especially when encountering emergency vehicles. If you’re involved in an injury accident caused by another’s negligence, we can help you win fair compensation.

Our Green Bay car accident attorneys have won significant settlements for our clients, including $350,000 in a drunk driving crash. We will use our knowledge of Wisconsin’s traffic and auto insurance laws to review your case, determine liability, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case review and discover your legal options after a crash. 

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