Some of our readers have asked us whether ambulances can beat traffic lights in an emergency.
One reader brought an incident that happened in Penang to our attention. An ambulance ran a red light and collided with a car that couldn’t stop in time, which caused the ambulance to crash into a group of motorcyclists in the opposite lane. You can see the video here.
Do emergency vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, and prison transports have special status? What should drivers do to make way for them? Here's what we found.
Emergency vehicles have priority over everyone else
Image from themalaymailonline
According to Rule 9 of the Road Traffic Rules 1959, emergency vehicles on duty have the right of way over all other traffic. (This law is not available in the public domain, so we can’t link it. Sorry!) However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow any rules. Rule 9(1) states that:-
They must warn others that they’re approaching by sounding a siren, bell, or two-tone horn.
They are still bound by their legal responsibilities and traffic laws on dangerous, careless, or inconsiderate driving.
So if when an ambulance is rushing a patient to the hospital, it must do so safely, otherwise it will also be subject to the same laws as normal vehicles.
According to the Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, ambulances are not allowed to beat traffic lights even during an emergency, they still have to obey traffic rules. The sirens are only an indication that they should be given priority of passage.
“The drivers should be told that even if they have the lights and the beacon switched on, they would still have to obey traffic rules,” Dr Hasan as quoted by The Star
It’s an offence to to get in their way
Rule 9(2) says that we drivers of normal vehicles must make way by going as close as possible to the sides of the road and stopping to let emergency vehicles pass. This is also given effect through Rule 24 of the Highway Code, which says that drivers must give way to emergency vehicles with their siren turned on. Breaking the rules of the Highway Code is not an actual crime, but the fact that you broke a rule can be used as evidence against you in court!
Even if it’s not a law, we should still make way for emergency vehicles
Emergency vehicles sometimes have to rush to the scene because a life is at stake. For us, helping them could be as simple as moving our vehicles aside to let them pass. After all, we’d want others to do the same if we were in an emergency.
As for ambulances who run red lights, if they choose to do so, it’s still our duty to make sure that we drive safely. Our Highway Code also tells us under Rule 10 that even when other drivers flaunt the rules, it’s wiser for us to stay calm and play it safe:-
“The courteous motorist will show consideration to all other road users whether drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. He controls his temper and obeys traffic regulations. You must not allow rudeness or stupidity of other road users to affect your own good manners, judgement and conduct when driving.”