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How to Drive Behind Emergency Vehicles

California Vehicle Code 21706 explains what to do when there is an emergency vehicle on the road. Emergency vehicles are typically equipped with flashing lights and sirens to make themselves obvious, and may be a police car, ambulance, or a fire engine. These vehicles always receive the right of way, as they are traveling as quickly as possible to address an emergency situation.

It is important for all other drivers to get out of the way of emergency vehicles. All drivers, upon hearing emergency sirens, must make their way as closely as possible to the right shoulder of the road and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass. If a driver is unable to move from their position in the road, staying stationary and allowing other vehicles to move rightward is acceptable.

After the emergency vehicle has made their way through the roadway and has a clear trajectory, other vehicles may begin driving. However, all drivers must be at least 300 feet behind or away from the authorized emergency vehicle. Waiting for the emergency vehicle to gain a sufficient gap before rejoining the roadway is important.

Any driver who travels within 300 feet of an emergency vehicle is traveling illegally and in an unsafe manner.

There is one instance where this section does not apply. As noted in Section 21057, police or traffic officers serving as escorts on the roadway do not require the same 300 feet gap behind them.


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