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Posted in Law on March 14, 2017   |  by Gary Burger

How to Interact with Emergency Services on the Road

What do you do if you hear a siren on the roadway or you’re pulled over by law enforcement? You probably can hear that siren in the background as I’m taping this. If you hear a siren either coming from in front of you or coming behind you, slow down, not abruptly slow down but slowly slow down and start moving over to the right-hand side of the roadway. If it’s an ambulance or officer coming this way, they need you over there so that they can clearly go there.

Remember, the other drivers may not follow those rules like you do, so the ambulance, the officer, the fire truck coming this way may need to go in your lane. If they’re coming from behind and it’s a crowded area, you need to start moving over so that the ambulance or the fireman has room to get by you, and so think about that. Just don’t think that you don’t have to or the ambulance is going to turn, it’s not going to get to you, or you can go a little bit farther, you don’t need to quite stop yet. I tell you, I never got more appreciation for this than when me or one of my family members has had to be in an ambulance. If you’ve ever been in that position where it’s an emergency situation, you gain sudden empathy and appreciation for when you’re a driver later on pulling that, so have that empathy now. Pull over for emergency vehicles.

Now, what do you do if you’re pulled over by law enforcement? Well, the rules of the road in both Illinois and Missouri and other states have specific rules about that. Slow down and pull over safely to the side of the road. Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded highway during rush hour. If there’s a side street, pull over on that side street. Let the officer know by clear signals what you’re doing. When the officer comes, do not get out of your vehicle. Stay in your driver seat with both hands clearly on the side of the steering wheel until the officer instructs you otherwise. Don’t be ruffling around in your console and your other things for your driver’s license and insurance. Be there. Let the officer know it’s safe. The officer doesn’t know that. Officers have tough jobs. They encounter great, nice, law-abiding people, they also encounter criminals. That’s their job. They don’t know who you are when they come up to you, and they don’t know what state you’re in, so have your hands on the steering wheel and follow the officer’s instructions.

Do not get out of your vehicle. The officer doesn’t know what you’re doing. Don’t start getting into your trunk for your insurance card. Turn on your interior light if you’re stopped at night. Comply with the officer’s request to see your driver’s license, insurance and proof of registration of your vehicle. If they’re in your glove box or under your seat, inform the officer of that fact and tell them you’re going to get it, so they know what’s going on.

If you’re issued a ticket requiring a signature, sign it. You’re just acknowledging that you got a ticket for speeding, or failure to yield the right of way, or a brake light, or your tags are old on your license plate. Sign it. You’re not admitting guilt to that when you sign it.

If you’re suspected of drunk driving, do what the officer says. Be aware that you may have committed some minor traffic violation without realizing it. There’s no reason to get mad to the officer for something the officer didn’t do or may suspect. You may later be in the right. The officer may have seen the wrong tag. You may have a reason why you weren’t driving with your lights on. You may have just forgotten. Many officers let you off with a warning regarding something like that. If an officer chooses to issue you a traffic violation instead of giving you a free pass, don’t get mad about it. That’s the deal. When you become a licensed driver, you agree to abide by the rules of the road and the officers need to enforce that.

Now, also know, as the law says, at the same time, as well as you treat the officer like a gentleman or a lady, you as the driver are to be treated with dignity and respect by the officer. If you believe that an officer ever acts inappropriately during a traffic stop, you should report that conduct as soon as possible to the officer’s superiors. That comes out of the driver’s guide. That’s the law.

Officers are required to provide you their names and badge numbers upon request. They have to advise you that stuff. That doesn’t mean you get into an officer’s face to try to prove your point because you’re angry that you got stopped. Remember to relax and take a breath if the officer pulls you over. You don’t want to escalate any situation. You want to de-escalate and comply with the officer’s reasonable requirements.

Remember too, back to what I said in the beginning, in terms of looking out for these sirens and lights, move over and pull over for emergency vehicles before you have to.

In a crowded highway — this bugs me too — is when the ambulance come on the left to try to get to an incident, everybody pulls behind that ambulance to try to go faster. Relax. You’re only going to change your arrival time by a matter of minutes by doing those kind of shenanigans, so try to avoid them. Thanks. That’s all I have. Thanks for listening.