Most everyone is familiar with the requirement to move right and stop for approaching emergency vehicles using lights and/or sirens. Do you know what to do when approaching an emergency vehicle, tow truck, or other roadside assistance vehicle stopped and using lights/sirens? Washington law requires drivers approaching these “emergency zones” to slow down, and if possible, move away from the emergency vehicle. On an interstate or highway with more than four total lanes, this typically requires leaving one lane between yourself and the emergency zone.
Here are the Washington Rules of the Road for emergency vehicles and zones:
RCW 46.61.210: Operation of vehicles on approach of emergency vehicles.
- Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.190, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.
- This section shall not operate to relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.
RCW 46.61.212: Approaching emergency zones—Penalty—Violation.
- The driver of any motor vehicle, upon approaching an emergency zone, which is defined as the adjacent lanes of the roadway two hundred feet before and after (a) a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is making use of audible and/or visual signals meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.190, (b) a tow truck that is making use of visual red lights meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.196, (c) other vehicles providing roadside assistance that are making use of warning lights with three hundred sixty degree visibility, or (d) a police vehicle properly and lawfully displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating emergency light or lights, shall:
- On a highway having four or more lanes, at least two of which are intended for traffic proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change or moving away from the lane or shoulder occupied by the stationary authorized emergency vehicle or police vehicle;
- On a highway having less than four lanes, proceed with caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, and under the rules of this chapter, yield the right-of-way by passing to the left at a safe distance and simultaneously yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the highway; or
- If changing lanes or moving away would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle.
- A person may not drive a vehicle in an emergency zone at a speed greater than the posted speed limit.
- A person found to be in violation of this section, or any infraction relating to speed restrictions in an emergency zone, must be assessed a monetary penalty equal to twice the penalty assessed under RCW 46.63.110. This penalty may not be waived, reduced, or suspended.
- A person who drives a vehicle in an emergency zone in such a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any emergency zone worker or property is guilty of reckless endangerment of emergency zone workers. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
- The department shall suspend for sixty days the driver’s license, permit to drive, or nonresident driving privilege of a person convicted of reckless endangerment of emergency zone workers.
Car Accident Attorney on Your Side
Confusion and merging traffic around emergency vehicles and emergency zones can quickly lead to car accidents. If you are injured in an accident, you need an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in Spokane on your side. The attorneys at Parke Gordon Law Firm will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact the law office of personal injury attorney Mat Parke today for a free consultation. This is your opportunity to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your case for free. Call (509)482-7274 to get started on receiving a fair settlement from your personal injury case.
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