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Meeting Emergency Vehicles

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles

Meeting Emergency Vehicles

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
February 14, 2009

A recent survey question was: “When meeting an oncoming ambulance using its lights and siren, must you stop?

Yes: 18 (46%)
No: 3 (8%) Only if necessary to allow it to pass safely: 18 (46%)

Thanks to the 39 readers who participated in this survey.

Here’s the applicable section of the Illinois Vehicle Code: 625 ILCS 5/11-907 (1) reads, in part,
“the driver of every other vehicle shall yield 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 highway clear of any intersection and shall, if necessary to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer”.

The important two words in this section about stopping are “if necessary”.

So why do so many drivers stop in McHenry County?

If an ambulance is blowing east down Hwy. 14 from Woodstock toward the hospital with lights and siren and no cars are in front of it, it is not necessary to stop. Stopping is actually more dangerous than not stopping, because a driver may decide to pass the stopped car and find himself right in the path of the ambulance.

Interestingly enough, the 2008 Illinois Rules of the Road contains erroneous information. No wonder so many people stop when meeting an oncoming emergency vehicle using lights and siren. It reads on Page 27, “When being approached by an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals, Illinois law requires motorists to immediately pull to the right side of the road and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass.” "Wait" would probably mean “stop” to most drivers.

So, which is correct? I'll vote for the State law. And I’ll contact Jesse White's office on Tuesday.

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