Briefing Room: Hear a siren? Pull the car over to the right

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Hi Sun Readers!

I hope you are staying warm as the weather begins to cool.  This is my favorite time of the year.  I sat in on one of our patrol briefings this week and the officers were discussing one of their biggest challenges, which was motorists not yielding to the right for emergency vehicles.

I can certainly identify with this.  It is incredibly problematic when we are responding to an emergency, driving Code 3 (with our lights flashing and sirens blaring) and the motorist in front of us does not pull to the right.

California Vehicle Code section 21806 says (in part) “the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.”

The most critical part of this section is “immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway.” This is super important to us because we are not allowed to pass cars on the right when we are driving Code 3.  The reason is because by law, other cars are supposed to yield to the right.  So if we pass on the right and at the same time a motorists decides to yield, we may be involved in a collision.  We have to do whatever we can (use the air horn, get on the PA system) to get the car in front of us to yield to the right.  Sometimes this eats up critical seconds (or longer!).

From the motorists perspective, I can understand why some people panic and either slam on their brakes or yield to the left when they see an emergency vehicle behind them.  It can be startling and a driver may fear that they are going to get pulled over and issued a ticket.  However, what really happens is that it delays both the police and fire departments’ ability to respond to emergencies quickly.

So Seal Beach, whenever you see an emergency vehicle on the roadway, please safely and promptly yield to the right.  It might make the difference in an emergency situation.

Please email your questions to askacop@sealbeachca.gov and check next week’s edition to see if we answered your question.