How you can help the emergency services in saving lives on the road
It's vital to know how to react when blue lights approach, says our Road Safety Authority expert
Every day, the emergency services save lives in the course of their work.
And we saw them at their very best during Storm Emma.
Every second counts when they are responding.
You can do your bit to help them arrive safely and quickly by knowing how to react when you encounter them on your journey.
A classic way of finding out who is paying attention to their driving and checking their mirrors regularly is to see how drivers react when an emergency services vehicle is responding to a call.
It's amazing just how many people fail to see the flashing lights or hear the sirens as an ambulance or fire engine approaches, especially from behind. I can only assume such drivers have zoned out and are focusing only on what's ahead.
They might be wondering what's for dinner or have the radio turned up so loud they cannot hear the sirens. Whatever the cause, they're not concentrating on their driving.
As a result, it's not until the last moment, when the emergency vehicle is virtually on top of them, that they realise they are holding up progress.
In such a situation, a driver doesn't have enough time to think about what action they need to take to let the emergency vehicle pass safely, and can often panic.
They have missed those valuable moments needed to assess the route and identify a suitable area to pull in and let the vehicle pass.
Good observation on your journey and checking the mirrors regularly will solve this problem.
It's important to leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front when stopped in traffic.
You should be able to see the rear tyres on the vehicle in front of you touching the tarmac.
This will give you space to move your car if, for example, the vehicle in front breaks down, or you need to pull in to let an ambulance or Garda car pass - something you can't do if you are sandwiched between two vehicles in traffic.
Even drivers who are paying attention to their surroundings sometimes panic and take actions that both hinder the emergency services in their response to a situation and potentially even put other road users at risk.
So what should you do when you encounter emergency vehicles on the road?
Firstly, it is important to be alert and attentive at all times.
Keep noise in the vehicle at a level that allows you to hear the sirens etc.
Be alert at intersections and observe your surroundings as emergency vehicles may come from behind you or from a secondary road.
When an emergency vehicle approaches and you see blue flashing lights or hear sirens, clear the way as soon as you can do so safely.
Check your rear and side mirrors to gauge the speed of the emergency vehicle and look out for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users.
Never mount the kerb unless you absolutely have to and, even then, only if you are certain that there are no pedestrians.
Always indicate your intention to pull over and only do so in a space that has enough room for the emergency vehicle to pass safely.
Don't move back out into the road until the emergency vehicle has passed. Watch out for other emergency vehicles following, as there may be more than one. Indicate when you're returning to the traffic flow and gradually merge.
Never tailgate, overtake or race after an emergency vehicle to get through a traffic light. This may sound obvious but I've seen it happen.
Never break a red light or the speed limit to allow emergency vehicles to pass, unless you're directed to do this by a garda or emergency services personnel.