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Driving Myth #5: Stopping for Emergency Vehicles

Myth No. 5 – Slowing down or moving a lane away from stopped emergency vehicles is only a courtesy, but it’s not a law.

Well, here’s the thing; it actually is the law in Oregon and has been for a few years now. The law was enacted as a reaction to a number of horrific crashes between police vehicles and other emergency responders with drivers who swerved from the right lane into the emergency lane.

A number of people were killed in these collisions, and one of the results of this carnage was ORS 811.147 – Failure to Maintain Safe Distance from Emergency Vehicles. This multi-faceted piece of safety legislation covers most classes of emergency response vehicles, including:

  • Police
  • Fire
  • Ambulances
  • Roadside assistance vehicles
  • Tow vehicles

The lawmakers who drew up this legislation recognize it is not always feasible, safe or even possible to move over one lane. However, regardless of which lane you find yourself in, the statute is very specific about the requirement to slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.

Whatever the posted speed limit is, all drivers are required under ORS 811.147 to reduce their speed to at least five miles per hour below that posted speed limit. Failure to obey this law isn’t just rude, and it’s not just illegal; it’s downright dangerous.

Video Provided by the Portland Police Bureau.