LivingSo you must give way to an ambulance

So you must give way to an ambulance

Those of us who have worked in an ambulance know that there is a lack of culture and training in road safety and that we need to know what to do when we have to give way to a priority vehicle . Braking, swerving and pedestrians who go with headphones and literally “throw” into the ambulance is what is most often seen.

If the priority vehicle is an ambulance and it does not carry a patient, the integrity of the workers and ours is endangered. If the ambulance transports a patient to a hospital, in theory, the patient has already been treated and stabilized.

But during this transfer the driving cannot be very abrupt and the emergency health technicians modify their driving so as not to harm the patient : they try to drive at a constant speed, with the same trajectory and without making sudden lane changes.

Hard braking can cause increases in intracranial pressure and unwanted changes in blood pressure and other physiological aspects of the patient.

For the safety of the patient and drivers, training in road safety and knowing how to act in these cases is so important . In some European Union countries, this performs better. For example, examples circulate on social networks where an ambulance does not need to come to make way. As a traffic jam forms, they already leave a rescue corridor in the middle. This happens in Germany and they call it ‘ rettungsgasse’ . In other countries we do what we can or what we know.

What happens if I don’t give way to an ambulance?

If we do not give way to an ambulance we will be breaking the General Circulation Regulations. Article 69 defines the behavior of other drivers with respect to priority emergency vehicles, both public and private. And they tell us verbatim that: “As soon as they perceive the special signs announcing the proximity of a priority vehicle, the other drivers will adopt the appropriate measures, according to the circumstances of the moment and place, to facilitate their passage, normally moving aside to their right or stopping if necessary.”

In Spain, hindering the passage of priority emergency vehicles carries a fine of 200 euros for vehicles and 80 euros for pedestrians who do not clear the road according to the General Traffic Regulations.

When do emergency or urgency vehicles have priority?

It is important to know that they do not need to have the siren activated to know that they are activated. That is, to an ambulance with lights without a siren, you have to give way . The emergency light is signal V1 and since the publication of Order PCI/810/2018, which came into force on August 1, 2018, it will be blue for all priority emergency vehicles.

The priority emergency vehicles are: police forces, firefighters, civil protection, rescue and rescue or assistance in health services, both public and private. Therefore, for a few years we have seen that this blue signal is also carried by ambulances.

What to do when an emergency vehicle passes?

The first thing we have to do if we see and/or hear a priority vehicle is to try to gather information and know where the emergency vehicle is coming from. If we see it, we’ll have to see how fast it’s coming.

Once the information is collected, we have to be aware of our situation , of the vehicles that circulate in the lanes around us, and see how to get out of the way without causing problems. We must always signal the maneuver that we are going to carry out.

Then we must give way to the vehicle and, finally, we will resume the march safely.

Our main premise must be to favor passage and collaborate because, according to the General Traffic Regulations, priority vehicles: “may circulate above the speed limits and will be exempt from complying with other regulations or signs”.

The General Directorate of Traffic advises us 5 general actions to take when an ambulance approaches :

  1. Keep your track.
  2. Slow down gradually, without sudden braking.
  3. Watch, signal and move to the side if possible.
  4. If you can’t get out of the way, stay calm and don’t make any surprise moves.
  5. Obey the instructions of emergency personnel, if applicable.

How do we make way for an ambulance or priority vehicle?

These are the general tips, but we can go a little deeper at the point of giving way to the ambulance or priority vehicle. When we are driving along a road, we must move to the right or to the left depending on the type of road and the lanes following these recommendations:

  • On two-way roads, you must always move to the right.
  • On roads with two lanes in each direction, the vehicle in the right lane travels to the right and the vehicle in the left lane to the left.
  • On roads with three lanes in each direction, vehicles in the center and right lanes move to the right and vehicles in the left lane move to the left.

We must not take advantage and follow the vehicle to overtake the rest . We do not know at what point it can brake suddenly causing a collision.

What to do if I find an ambulance at a roundabout?

In the case of intersections and roundabouts things get more difficult. At crossroads and intersections where we do not know where the priority vehicles are coming from, the DGT recommends that we be alert, do not block the intersection and do not surprise with sudden manoeuvres. There is also no need to brake since it is possible that we will produce a rear range.

At a roundabout, we must always give way, even if we are in the inner lanes and want to exit. We will reduce our speed without changing our trajectory

If we go through an accident, the key is not to stop to look around : we can make the accident worse. Therefore, we will separate ourselves as much as possible from the agents and emergency personnel and we will always follow the instructions of the agents who control traffic.

Remember: priority vehicles have preference. If we see one with the blue priority lights on, we must give way to them even if they do not have the siren on.

In the case of ambulances, they sometimes transport patients in delicate health conditions in which braking can cause death or serious alterations to the patient. Our role is to give way to them as safely as possible.

Failure to yield to an ambulance carries financial penalties. Staying calm and following the recommendations of the General Directorate of Traffic will help avoid unnecessary accidents.


DGT. 2017. Friar. Emergencies on the way. Traffic and Safety Magazine . General direction of traffic. Available at:

Order PCI/810/2018, of July 27, which modifies annexes II, XI and XVIII of the General Vehicle Regulations, approved by Royal Decree 2822/1998, of December 23 https://www.boe. en/eli/en/o/2018/07/27/pci810

SAMUR Procedures- PC 2022. Operating procedures: Driving medical vehicles in emergencies. Recommendations for driving medical vehicles in emergency services.

General Traffic Regulations

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