According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, protecting the safety of those who respond to roadside emergencies to help accident victims is important, if not essential. In fact, our Illinois motorists have likely seen first responders attending to the needs of accident victims on the roadways and highways. Sadly, NHTSA notes that first responders can get injured while helping others because other motorists may not be aware of what to do when they see an emergency vehicle standing on the side of the road with its lights on.
In an effort to improve the safety of first responders on the roads, the safety of other drivers, and to reduce additional car collisions and injuries that can result because drivers may not know what to do when they see an emergency vehicle, NHTSA has been working to develop what is known as a move over law. In fact, presently about 40 U.S. states, including Illinois, have such a law in place.
The current law specifically addresses what drivers of a vehicle must do when they see and hear an emergency vehicle approaching or when they approach a stationary emergency vehicle parked on the road. When drivers hear the siren and see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, they must yield the right-of-way and make way for the emergency vehicle to safely pass.
In the event a driver approaches a stationary emergency vehicle, if the roadway has multiple lanes, then the driver must make a lane change and move over into the lane that is not next to where the stationary emergency vehicle is. However, safety of all involved is paramount. Thus, if bad weather, rush hour traffic or some other condition prevents a driver from changing lanes, then the driver must reduce speed and, with caution, pass the emergency vehicle.
It is important to keep in mind all drivers, including the emergency vehicle operators and personnel, have an on-going duty to obey all traffic laws in place.
Source: ilga.gov, “Operation of vehicles and streetcars on approach of authorized emergency vehicles,”, Accessed Sept. 28, 2015