Ambulance etiquette: How pulling over can save lives

May 28, 2019

TUCSON, Ariz. (May 22, 2019) – Do you know what to do when you are driving and see a flashing red light behind you?

And do you pull over to let the emergency vehicle pass by?

Following the rules of the road and moving over for ambulances, fire trucks and police cars is critical for first responders to do their job safely.

Video/audio tape of Gaither talking about ambulance safety

Every year, 4,500 ambulances are involved in accidents, and 30 people are killed because of those accidents, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And with summer driving season kicking into high gear, it is especially important for the safety of emergency personnel and the patients they are transporting for drivers to practice good ambulance etiquette, says Joshua Gaither, MD, Emergency department physician at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson.

As an ED-doctor, Gaither sees firsthand what happens when there is a delay in getting a patient the medical care they need.

“Time is critical whether it is severe trauma, cardiac arrest, or stroke. We need to get our EMS providers out to the patients as quickly as possible. Seconds matter.’’

If you see the sirens, begin a three-step process: signal, move to the right and slow down to stop, says Gaither. “The police officer, fire truck, ambulance is always going to go to your left. If you move to the right, you give them space, so they can safely pass you.’’

Remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed. Then turn on your left turn signal, check your mirrors, and carefully pull back into your traffic lane.

What happens if you are congested traffic?

“Start with the blinker and signal that you are going to move to the right and whenever it is safe go ahead and merge across, ‘’ Gaither says.

Divided highway? “It is a good idea to slow down and move to the right even if they are going in the opposite direction. It helps make sure everyone has the best vision.’’ Gaither said.

About Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and South

Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, nationally ranked as a best hospital by U.S. News and World Report, and Banner – University Medical Center South are part of Banner – University Medicine, a premier academic medical network. These institutions are academic medical centers for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. Included on the two campuses are Diamond Children's Medical Center and many specialty clinics. The two academic medical centers are part of Arizona-based Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country. Banner Health is in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. For more information, visit or