What Are the Penalties for Failing to Yield for an Emergency Vehicle?

Emergency vehicles must respond quickly to situations involving harm to others. As such, California has laws on the books that require motorists to yield to those vehicles to allow them to arrive timely at their destinations.

Emergency vehicles include:

  • Police cars,
  • Fire engines,
  • Ambulances, or
  • Other vehicles with emergency lights and sirens on

Unfortunately, if you do not obey the laws, you could be looking at fines and points assessed to your driver's license.

Pulling Over for Approaching Emergency Vehicles

When emergency personnel are responding to an emergency, they will turn on the sirens and flashing lights.

If you see and hear the signals of an emergency vehicle, under California Vehicle Code 21806 VC, you are required to:

  • Move to the right of the roadway and stop to allow the emergency vehicle to pass unobstructed;
  • If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle behind you, continue through the intersection until you are clear of it and then pull over to the right when it's safe to do so;
  • Remain stopped until the emergency vehicle passes

After the emergency vehicle has gone by, you may continue on your way.

If you do not yield for an emergency vehicle, an officer can issue a citation for the offense. If you're convicted, you are subject to a fine and 1 point on your driver's license.

Keeping Your Distance from Emergency Vehicles

If an emergency vehicle is in front of you on the road, according to California Vehicle Code 21706 VC, you must remain at least 300 feet away from it. The only vehicle allowed to follow closely behind it is another emergency vehicle.

Failing to stay a safe distance from an emergency vehicle is an infraction. As with not pulling over for an emergency vehicle, you can be cited, and if convicted, you could be ordered to pay a fine and have 1 point assessed to your license.

If you follow an emergency vehicle to an accident just to have a look, you could be arrested, as onlookers could interfere with emergency services.

Slowing for Stationary Emergency Vehicles

The statutes mentioned above concern moving emergency vehicles. But what about situations where one or more are stopped on the freeway in response to an accident or other situation? In these cases, you're still required to yield to the emergency vehicle. However, this doesn't always involve stopping.

Under California Vehicle Code 21809 VC, when you're approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle, you must:

  • Switch to a lane not adjacent to the accident (if safe to do so and not prohibited by law); or
  • If you cannot move over, slow to a safe speed

Failing to yield for a stationary vehicle is an infraction, and if convicted, you could be ordered to pay a $50 fine.

Have you been cited for a traffic offense in Fresno? If so, discuss your case with The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch during a free consultation by calling us at (559) 484-2112 or contacting us online.