You got a fast car…

We've updated our cars a little since this was taken but still, what would you do if we needed to overtake you on our way to an emergency call?

For anyone who’s ever seen an emergency services vehicle speed past them and wondered what it’s like to be on board during a ‘blue light run’, I can say from personal experience that it’s exciting, exhilarating and a little scary all in equal measure. It’s something that few people will ever get to experience and even though I participate in them on a weekly basis, the thrill has not yet gone.

I still remember well my first blue light run. I was one a training attachment and had been driving about with two tutor constables and some other student officers in a seven seater van.

We were driving around the Broadway when a call came in to say that someone might be under attack in Leamore. Other units called up but were making from some distance so our tutors called up, stabbed at the central console to activate the lights, stamped on the accelerator and suddenly I was making towards my first ‘immediate’.

It’s hard to describe how exciting this was after having waited over two and half years to join the job to find myself sitting below a blaring siren and being thrown around the back of the van, trying my best to avoid the various bags and equipment that were cascading down upon us from the racks. Looking out the tainted windows I could see the traffic ahead of us part like the Red Sea and pedestrians stopping to watch us screaming past and off into the distance.

Whilst blue light runs are fun – and they can be – they also come with a certain level of risk and can prompt some very odd behaviour in other drivers. Officers undertake a strict three week course before they are qualified to drive beyond the speed limits and are taught how to anticipate hazards before they pose a danger.

Driving at speed is only ever authorised when it is judged that there may be serious consequences in delaying police arrival at an incident and even when this is the case, all possible steps are taken to mitigate the potential risks to other road users and pedestrians.

If you hear sirens when you are driving, my advice would be first of all to stay alert and do your best to identify where the vehicle is coming from. If you notice it in your rear view mirror and you are still driving, please pull over, indicating as you do so, and allow it room to pass.

I’ve seen many vehicles pulling aside to let us pass but inadvertently come to a stop opposite a traffic island etc meaning that we’ve not been left with sufficient room to squeeze through so please bare this in mind.

Some of the trickiest blue light runs are those through rush hour traffic and any officer will appreciate that it can be nearly impossible to know where to go if you’re stuck in a line of traffic at a set of lights with a police car trying to get through behind you.

Try your best where it is safe to do so to give us space and always bare in mind that once one emergency services vehicle has passed, there may well be a second following so please stay alert for this.

There’s certainly no reason to panic if you see flashing lights approaching and we’d not want motorists to take unnecessary or dangerous steps to clear a path, only those that are sensible given the circumstances.

As ever feedback is appreciated and the first person to post as a reply the correct name of the artist and song title from this blog’s title will receive an approving nod from myself.

P.S. There’s a great video about how to respond when an emergency services vehicle is coming through called Blue Light Aware, please check it out here.

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5 Responses to “You got a fast car…”


  1. 1 Alcoholic Monkey 22/07/2011 at 16:28

    What is the situation where you need to cross a red light to let an emergency vehicle through? Why isn’t there an exemption in the Road Traffic Act where this can be used as a defence?

    I heard of someone getting 3 points and £60 from a red light camera when they were getting out of the way of an ambulance.

    So, what are the public supposed to do if they’re at the front of a traffic light on red? Stay put and make the emergency vehicle wait until the lights turn green? Go through and risk 3 points and £60 fine if there’s a red light camera there?

    I really don’t know whether I could stay put in that situation, I’d probably end up going through and hoping there wasn’t a red light camera… I could never hold up an ambulance/fire engine/police vehicle on blues knowing that someone is desperately awaiting their assistance somewhere.

    P.S: You got a fast car – Tracy Chapman :-D

    • 2 PC Richard Stanley 23/07/2011 at 15:39

      Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52/section/35) states that a constable is able to direct traffic if it is the execution of his duty meaning if he or she directs you through a red light then yes, you would have a defence should a red light camera be triggered.

      Part of the problem of course is that the camera won’t know at the time that you’d been directed through so you’d need to state that this was the case if at a later date you received a letter in the post about the offence.

      We do appreciate mind that it can be a very difficult position to be in if there’s an emergency services vehicle at the back of a traffic queue and the motorists at the front have little option but to try and go through to allow passage.

      You’d not be able to say in this case that you’d been directed through and proceeding past a red light is very dangerous, hence in that situation I’d say you’d be best off waiting for the lights to change and then pulling aside where safe to let the vehicle through.

      Rich

  2. 3 Nicky 23/07/2011 at 12:40

    I think sirens are used far too often. They disturb the peace, wake people and babies up and give criminals a warning that the police are on the way.

    • 4 PC Richard Stanley 23/07/2011 at 15:41

      I know sirens can be a little annoying, especially if you live close to a police station or hospital where you likely hear them all of the time. We do try our best to minimise their usage and for the most part, won’t use them at night when there’s little other traffic around. We still need to use them when crossing junctions etc as it’s simply not safe to proceed through a red light with blue lights alone.

      Rich

  3. 5 David Prince (9026) 11/08/2011 at 16:49

    Nothing to do with subject but ‘Great Picture’ I was a Traffic Inspector at Duke Street when this batch of Triumphs were introduced into service, Last Traffic car I drove on Central Traffic before going to ‘MA’ – Motorway. Thanks for the memory and all the work done on our behalf in the last few days in particular -D.Prince , Walsall


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