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Stopped emergency vehicles require lane change

December 31, 2010

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, a new section to Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1144-a, requires every operator of a motor vehicle to "exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency vehicle that is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of a highway and is displaying it's emergency red and/or red and white lights."

For parkways or controlled access highways this law shall include moving from a lane that contains an emergency vehicle to the adjacent lane. If the emergency vehicle is on the shoulder of a parkway or limited access highway, it also requires moving from the lane immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle to another lane if practical to do so.

Prior to this new law, section 1180 (e) required motorists to drive at "an appropriate reduced speed" when passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped or standing on the shoulder of the road and is displaying their flashing emergency lights.

This new requirement is an enhancement of the laws in place for protection of personnel associated with these emergencies. Section 1180 (e) is still in effect, which means you still must slow down and now move over to avoid a collision with emergency vehicles or associated personnel such as police, fire, and rescue workers.

While we are discussing laws associated with emergency vehicles, let's not forget the law that requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles displaying red and/or red and white flashing lights and an audible siren or horn. This means pulling over to the curb or shoulder and coming to a stop until the emergency vehicle has passed, whether it is coming at you or coming from behind.

For this and many more articles on vehicle law and traffic safety, visit the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board's website at



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