What’s it all about?

Every year the emergency services attend many thousands of incidents, using blue lights and sirens to get there as quickly as they can.

When you call 999 seconds really do count, but emergency drivers rely on motorists to help them on the way. Although most drivers are keen to play their part it appears that some are unsure how best they can help.

In 2010 Avon Fire & Rescue Service launched a research project to learn more about the attitudes of drivers and where they may need more guidance.

A survey was carried out on the internet and at public events including the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. More than 1,900 members of the public, including learner drivers, new drivers and experienced drivers, completed the questionnaire providing our in-house research team with a clearer understanding of how drivers think they should behave when approached by an emergency vehicle.

Just over half (57%) said they had never received advice on what they should do if a blue light vehicle is trying to pass them. The findings also showed that one in three drivers and learner drivers would break the Highway Code and go through a red traffic light if an emergency vehicle came up behind them.

More than 200 emergency drivers from AF&RS, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Great Western Ambulance Service were also questioned about their experiences as part of the research to identify areas where they believed the public may need more guidance.

In total 65% said most road users ‘appear unsure of how to behave’ when approached by an emergency service vehicle on blue lights, with 88% citing erratic or unpredictable behaviour by motorists as the biggest difficulty they face.

Following the research AF&RS has produced three short films encouraging drivers to ‘Listen, Look, Think, React’. The videos are aimed at three distinct groups: learner drivers, new drivers and experienced drivers.  They provide practical advice about what to do to help emergency vehicles on their way to incidents.

Earlier this year AF&RS signed up to the European Road Safety Charter and pledged its support to the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness among drivers, improving road safety for motorists and emergency crews on their way to incidents.