Don't run red for ambulance

Referencing your recent article on emergency vehicles, if you are stopped at a red light and an emergency vehicle is directly behind you, do you go through the intersection against the red light, then pull over, or do you wait for the light to turn green then go?

— Gina

This question comes up often, but it's been quite a while back, so here's the low-down.

The scenario of what to do when you're at a red light and an emergency vehicle comes up behind you with its lights activated is not addressed in either the Oregon Revised Statutes or the Oregon Driver Manual, at least anywhere that I could find. So, really, it's a common sense or best practice policy that I'm advocating.

I would say you should not run a red light to yield to an emergency vehicle. The emergency vehicle is given express exemption to run red lights under certain conditions, while doing so in prescribed methods, you are not. Ideally, any police/fire/ambulance driver will be running with lights and siren when he can, but shutting them down when trapped at red lights to avoid making motorists make this kind of choice.

Then once the light is green they can start up with the lights/sirens again.

So the best choice is to wait for the green light and then pull off to the right (or left if on a one-way street) after clearing the intersection.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a regular Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Email him at

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