There’s an Emergency Vehicle Coming: Does Your Teen Know What to Do?

Prepare your teen for emergency situations.

January 11, 2019

When your teen gets behind the wheel, there are plenty of traffic laws, unwritten rules and best practices to follow, but one of the most important is safely getting out of the way of emergency vehicles.

Emergency vehicles using lights and sirens – whether it’s an ambulance, fire truck or police vehicle – always have the right of way and may appear unexpectedly. This is why parents have to teach their teens from day one to respect and make room for these vehicles anytime they share the road with them. The lesson can be as simple as: If an emergency vehicle approaches you with lights and sirens on, slow down and pull to the right side of the road until the vehicle passes.

Though this situation can be difficult to practice (you don’t want to have your teen suddenly pull over and stop if it is not an emergency) you can quiz your teen while out driving about where they could safely pull over on different roadways. This could help them react quickly in a real situation.

Though the rule is clear, your teen may still have questions. To help them in such a situation, explain that they should:

  • Never stop in an intersection. Though it is crucially important to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, your actions should not put yourself in danger. If you are in the middle of an intersection when such a vehicle appears, safely get through the intersection and then pull to the side of the road.
  • Don’t follow or gawk. These vehicles need to get somewhere fast, but even after they’ve passed your teen should avoid following too close or trying to get a look at where they are headed. Just let the vehicle go on its way and do the same yourself, otherwise you could put others at risk.
  • Don’t try to anticipate emergency vehicles. If you see lights and hear sirens, don’t turn down a different road thinking you’ll avoid the vehicle, as it might be headed around that same turn. Instead, just pull safely to the side of the road and wait for it to pass.
  • Pay attention. You may have trouble spotting emergency vehicles if your music is too loud or you are distracted, both excellent reasons to avoid these dangerous behaviors in the first place.

Your state laws may vary somewhat – some states recognize tow trucks and utility vehicles with flashing lights as emergency vehicles, for example – but the main takeaway for your teen is, when in doubt, slow down and pull over. This way, the emergency vehicles can safely use the road free of hazards.

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