What Are the Rules Of the Road For Emergency Vehicles?

Car accident with emergency vehicleWhen an emergency response vehicle is on its way to an emergency, its driver is allowed special privileges in order to get there as quickly as possible. Drivers of emergency vehicles including ambulances and police cars are allowed to speed, to run red lights, and to engage in what would otherwise be considered “reckless” driving behavior. However, just because they operate under different rules of the road during emergencies, it doesn’t mean that they are above the law. 

What are emergency vehicles entitled to do when en route to an accident or crime? 

While drivers of emergency vehicles are allowed to drive at speeds above posted speed limits and ignore some other rules of the road, they are still required to exercise caution as they drive around other vehicles on the roadway. They are required to drive in a safe manner and to avoid any driving behavior that would put other drivers or pedestrians in harm’s way.

When are emergency vehicles allowed to speed?

North Carolina law NC Law Concerning Emergency Vehicles states that speed limits do not apply to emergency vehicles when they are on their way to an emergency situation. However, it also states that this is allowed only “when operated with due regard for safety.” This statute applies to police vehicles, fire department vehicles, and private and public ambulances. It also applies to police vehicles that are in direct pursuit of law violators or suspected violators.

What do you need to do in North Carolina as a driver or road user when you see emergency vehicles on the roads?

When observing an emergency vehicle with active sirens and/or flashing lights, drivers in North Carolina are required to slow down and pull over where it is safe to do so. When any emergency vehicle gives its warning signal (sirens or flashing lights), all drivers on the road should immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb, stop, and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed.

Emergency Vehicles Approaching From The Front Vs Approaching From Behind

If you hear sirens or see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle approaching you from the rear, you should pull over as soon as it is safe in order to let the vehicle pass. 

Lawyer for police car accidents

If you hear sirens or see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle approaching you from the front, you should pull over as soon as it is safe in order to let the vehicle utilize all available road space. 

This applies to all vehicles on the road, regardless of the direction of travel, with only one exception. If you are driving on a four-lane highway divided by a median, cars traveling in the opposite direction as the emergency vehicle are not required to pull over and stop. 

This law is called the “Move Over Law“. It applies when any emergency vehicle is approaching including law enforcement vehicles, fire department vehicles, public and private ambulances, and public and private rescue squad emergency service vehicles. 

Failure to obey the Move Over Law in North Carolina (NC) may result in a class 2 misdemeanor and a mandatory fine of $250.

What happens if you’re involved in a collision with a police car or emergency vehicle traveling beyond posted speed limits? 

Car accidents do occur between speeding emergency vehicles and civilian drivers. However, the fact that the emergency vehicle was going over the posted speed limit does not make them immediately liable for the accident. 

If the emergency vehicle is on its way to an emergency or is a police officer actively pursuing a suspect, they are legally allowed to drive over the speed limit. While they do have the responsibility to ensure the safety of other drivers on the road, other drivers also must obey North Carolina’s “Move Over” law and yield to emergency vehicles. There are only rare cases when you can prove the driver of the emergency vehicle was being negligent and you were obeying all other responsibilities where the emergency vehicle might be at fault. If you’re involved in an accident with an emergency vehicle, you’ll need to engage the services of an experienced car accident attorney to help with your case. 

Are You Partially to Blame for the Accident? 

Claims for injuries from Car accidents in the state of North Carolina can be barred under a law called “contributory negligence.” The law takes into consideration the responsibilities of both vehicle’s drivers when assessing the cause of an accident. If it’s proven that both parties had a part in the cause of the accident (not necessarily equally), then neither driver can claim compensation from the other. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical collision with a civilian car and an emergency vehicle. An emergency vehicle was speeding down the road with its lights and sirens on and entered the intersection on a red light. You failed to pull over to allow the vehicle to pass in front of you, and the emergency vehicle struck your car. In terms of assessing compensation, it would likely be determined that both drivers shared some responsibility. The emergency vehicle was allowed to speed through the intersection against a red traffic light, but only after taking all reasonable precautions, which would include slowing down to make sure the intersection is clear of other vehicles. Here, both parties would likely be held contributorily negligent and neither party could successfully pursue a personal injury claim against the other. Also, you may be prosecuted for failing to adhere to North Carolina’s Move-over law.

Of course the above is purely hypothetical, used to illustrate the complex situations which might occur and the need for involving good legal support, i.e., (a reputable and experienced North Carolina car accident lawyer).

Note that contributory negligence laws also guide insurance claims adjusters – they make decisions based on what is likely to happen in court. If you are partially at-fault for the accident, then you may not be able to receive compensation through a lawsuit OR through an insurance claim. Again, engage an experienced car accident lawyer at the earliest opportunity to assess your case because there are defenses to contributory negligence which may save your claim for compensation.

cop car accidents

Understand Your Insurance Coverage

In North Carolina the law requires that drivers have at least the minimum amount of liability insurance coverage. This coverage pays for bodily injury of people and property damage in a car accident that you cause. It can be used to pay for expenses to injured parties including medical bills and vehicle damage. 

The minimum coverages required in NC are:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability per person injured
  • $60,000 for total bodily injury liability when two or more people are injured
  • $25,000 for property damage 

Note that if there are damages beyond these limits, you may be held personally responsible for them. 

If you’ve been involved in any type of accident with an emergency vehicle and have suffered damage to your person or property (vehicle), we recommend that you contact one of our Car Accident Attorneys who can walk you through case and advise you of your legal rights.

Contact Kellum Law Firm Today.

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DISCLAIMER:

The content on this website is provided for general information only. It should NOT be construed by the reader as LEGAL ADVICE. The LAWS of the Nation and of the State of North Carolina are subject to frequent change and addition. Such changes and additions may periodically render the general information on our website out-of-date, thus, we disclaim any and all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken by the reader based on his or her interaction with the content of this website.

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OUR ADVICE TO YOU:

It’s often the case that the outcome of an accident or injury claim can hinge on the smallest of details. While it may seem appealing to try to handle a case on your own, it’s rare that acting independently of a lawyer will yield the best results for the plaintiff. Therefore, whilst we encourage you to read the useful articles at our website,  we strongly recommend that you seek sound legal advice before attempting to deal with any type of accident or injury claim on your own.

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1620 US-17 BUS
Williamston, NC 27892

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3250 Zebulon Road
Rocky Mount, NC 27804

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(252) 442-3975

219 Broad Street
New Bern, NC 28560

Directions

(252) 633-2550

 

5178-A Hwy 70 West
Morehead City, NC 28557

Directions

(252) 726-7000

 

501 SE Greenville Blvd.
Greenville, NC 27858

Directions

(252) 353-4100

 

4944 Windy Hill Dr.
Raleigh, NC

Directions

(919) 803-1908
Fax 919-803-1908

 

118 Cardinal Drive
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870

Directions

(252) 535-4444

 

445-A Western Blvd
Jacksonville, NC 28546

Directions

(910) 455-4546

 

1800 E. Ash Street
Goldsboro, NC 27533

Directions

(919) 722-6955

 

1213 Culbreth Dr
Wilmington, NC 28405

Directions

(910) 772-2242

1620 US-17 BUS
Williamston, NC 27892

Directions

(252) 789-4040

3250 Zebulon Road
Rocky Mount, NC 27804

Directions

(252) 442-3975

Kellum Law Firm's corporate headquarters is located in New Bern, NC and has offices around North Carolina, including Raleigh, Greenville, Jacksonville, Wilmington, and more. We provide local residents with legal services focusing on personal injury law including automobile accidents, social security disability, workers' compensation, medical malpractice, and more.

Our Corporate Business Address:

Kellum Law Firm

219 Broad Street
New Bern, NC 28563

Directions

(252) 633-2550