The surprise road rule about making way for an ambulance with flashing lights

·News Reporter

Most Australians know the sound of sirens and flashing lights usually indicate ‘get out of the way’ but can that also mean breaking the road rules in order to do so?

The answer was revealed after Queensland’s transport department shared a quiz on social media posing a particular question about who should give way at an intersection where an ambulance vehicle was trying to cross.

“The ambulance is approaching the intersection with an alarm sounding and flashing lights,” the Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland) wrote on Facebook Monday, with a graphic of the scenario.

Queensland’s transport department asked motorists who should give way at this intersection where an ambulance vehicle was trying to cross.
Who should give way at this intersection where an ambulance vehicle is trying to cross? Source: Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland) / Facebook

“The drivers of the red and blue cars are facing green traffic lights. Should they give way to the ambulance?” it asked.

While most people agreed the other drivers should wait for the ambulance to cross, not everyone was so sure what happened if they were breaking road rules by doing so.

“You must give way to an emergency vehicle that's sounding an alarm and/or showing flashing red or blue lights. This applies even if you're facing a green traffic light or arrow,” the road authority wrote.

Pictured is an ambulance speeding through an intersection with flashing lights.
Motorists can legally drive onto the wrong side of the road, or drive through a red traffic light, to make way for an ambulance. Source: Getty, file

One man posed a less black-and-white talking point, suggesting: “Maybe the question should relate more to motorists stopped at a red light blocking the path of an emergency service vehicle.”

The Department of Transport responded to that question with a response that surprised some motorists.

“The law allows you to drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, if it is safe to do so,” it wrote.

“However giving way to emergency vehicles should always be done with the utmost care and with the safety of yourself and all other road users as a priority.”

One man pointed out the Queensland Road Rule 78 which states a requirement to move out of an emergency vehicle’s path, overriding any other regular road rule.

The grey car speeds through a Brisbane intersection, ignoring an ambulance trying to cross.
The driver of the grey car was shamed for speeding through a Brisbane intersection while an ambulance tried to cross. Source: Emergency service turnouts Australia / You Tube

Another man argued there was a “duty of care on all parties” to “slow down and check it's safe to continue”.

The quiz comes a month after Emergency service turnouts Australia shared a YouTube video shaming a motorist for speeding through a Brisbane intersection while an ambulance was trying to cross, with sirens blasting.

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