Am I Required to Pull Over for Emergency Vehicles?

We have all been in this situation – you are driving down the road and all of a sudden hear a siren. You look in your rear view mirror and see an ambulance or fire truck with its lights flashing. Other cars begin to merge to the right. Most of us, by mere courtesy, also merge to the right and allow the emergency vehicle to pass. You wonder what the actual requirements are under the law.

Under West Virginia law, you are required to both pull over to the right side of the road and stop your vehicle until the emergency vehicle has passed. However, if you are in an intersection, then you are not required to stop until you have cleared the intersection.

W. Va. Code §17C-9-5 provides that the driver of a vehicle shall yield to 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 requirement applies whether the emergency vehicle is approaching from behind or ahead of you.

Emergency vehicle is defined as vehicles of a fire department, duly chartered rescue squad, police department, ambulance service, state, county or municipal agency and such privately owned ambulances, tow trucks, wreckers, flag car services, vehicles providing road service to disabled vehicles, service vehicles of a public service corporation, postal service vehicles, snow removal equipment, Class A vehicles of firefighters, Class A vehicles of members of ambulance services, and Class A vehicles of members of duly chartered rescue squads, and all other emergency vehicles as are designated by the agency responsible for the operation and control of these persons or organizations.

To trigger the requirements of a driver to pull over, the emergency vehicle must have at least one flashing light, which is visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of five hundred feet to the front of such vehicle, and the driver of the emergency vehicle must be giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell.

Any person who violates this law can be charged with misdemeanor and, upon a first conviction, receive a fine up to $200.