Drivers Must Stop for Fire Trucks and Ambulances

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Q: What should I do when a fire truck or ambulance is approaching me from behind on an emergency run, with its red lights flashing and siren sounding?
A: You must yield the right-of-way to the emergency vehicle. Pull over to the right (all the way to the curb if practical) and stop parallel to the curb. Before pulling back into traffic, be particularly alert for additional emergency vehicles.

Use extreme caution after stopping for an emergency vehicle, since another may be following close behind. See the tragedy that occurred when an Ohio driver was stopped at an intersection, but pulled out in front of the second truck:​. See the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decision concerning this collision, Anderson v. Massillon (Dec. 6, 2012): 

Q: What if I am turning left, and there are cars to my right when the emergency vehicle is coming up behind me?  
A: The law says you must yield, so you should slowly pull your vehicle parallel to the line of traffic, and come to a complete stop. The public safety vehicle driver may then decide the safest route is to cautiously pass you on the right, or to pass you on the left.

Q: What if I’m on foot, and am about ready to cross the street with a “walk” light when an emergency vehicle approaches?
A: You must yield to the public safety vehicle just as you would if you were driving.  

Q: Why do fire trucks sometimes block both the accident lane and the next lane when there’s an accident on the highway?
A: Both lanes are blocked to create a safe work zone for the emergency personnel and any injured motorists. This is an extremely hazardous situation, and each year emergency personnel are killed while assisting others on highways. See FEMA’s web page, “Emergency Responder Roadway Operations,” at

Q: What should I do if I am in the right lane of a local highway and an ambulance with lights showing is stopped ahead in the right lane?
A: Move to the far left and slowly proceed pass the stopped ambulance. If there are three lanes of traffic headed in same direction, cautiously move to the far left lane. 

Q: What should I do if there is a fire truck stopped ahead of me with a fire hose extending on to the roadway?
A: Never drive over the hose. It endangers the lives of the firefighters by cutting off a flow of water, it can endanger the fireman operating the pump, and it is a criminal offense.  

Q: If I am at home, and dial 9-1-1 because I think my son may have broken his leg, can I follow right behind the ambulance that is taking my child to the hospital?
 A: No. If the ambulance is making an emergency transport using reds lights and siren, you may not follow more closely than 500 feet behind the vehicle.  

Q: What should I do if I am stopped for a school bus that is off-loading children, and a fire truck with red lights and siren comes up behind me?  
A: Cautiously pull to the right and stop. Ohio law says you may not pull past the school bus as long as the bus driver is displaying the “stopped” signals or loading or unloading children. Likewise, the fire truck driver may not pass the school bus until the bus driver confirms that all children are safely out of the way.


This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Lawrence T. Bennett, Esq., program chair, Fire Science & Emergency Management, University of Cincinnati.​

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.



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