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What You Should Know About Arizona’s Emergency Vehicle Laws

By Zachary Mushkatel on

Ambulance passing the highway.

Many Arizona residents get injured in auto accidents when they fail to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles, or when they react incorrectly.  Under state law, emergency vehicles have certain rights when they operate on the road. Also, if you approach a road crew vehicle or emergency vehicle on the shoulder of the road, you must move over and slow down.  Many police officers, paramedics and even tow truck drivers die each year because other drivers fail to use good judgment by getting over to another lane. All Arizona drivers would do well to follow the rules and understand how to react when they are in close proximity to an emergency vehicle.

Why Do We Have Emergency Vehicle Laws in Arizona?

When emergency services workers must pull to the shoulder of the road to do their job, they are in a vulnerable and dangerous position. Drivers who pass by them must use reasonable caution. Sadly, in violation of the law, may drivers do not. As a result, many emergency workers suffer serious or fatal injuries. Move Over Arizona reports that, in our state:

  • A tow truck driver is killed every six days
  • 23 road crew workers are killed each month
  • A police officer is killed every month
  • Five firefighters are killed every year.

Additionally, when emergency vehicles respond to a call, they may use lights, sirens and aggressive traffic maneuvers in order to get to the scene of the emergency. Everyone else on the road should understand the rules and know how to react to those vehicles. Otherwise, severe collisions can occur.

What Do Arizona’s Emergency Vehicle Laws Require?

Arizona law – specifically A.R.S. § 28-775 – contains provisions that aim to protect the public while giving emergency vehicles a clear right-of-way when they operate under emergency conditions. Likewise, the rules protect law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and other road crew workers from being injured as they perform their duties on the roadway. Here are two common scenarios that the law addresses:

Do You Need To Pull Over For Approaching Emergency Vehicles?

If you see or hear an approaching police car, ambulance or other emergency vehicle, must do the following:

  • Yield the right-of-way
  • Get to the closest edge or curb away from an intersection as quickly as possible
  • Stop in place and remain in place until the emergency vehicle passes.

These rules allow you to exercise a bit of judgment. Generally, when in doubt, do what feels safest under the circumstances. For instance, if you are in a right lane, you may hug the right curb but stay parallel to the roadway. If you are in a left lane, you may hug the left lane or median. If you are in a middle lane, you should choose the direction that provides the easiest path and most room for you to maneuver. Ideally, traffic will spread out, leaving a center lane of travel for the emergency vehicle.

Can You Pass A Stopped Emergency Vehicle

If you approach an emergency vehicle, tow truck or road crew vehicle that is stopped on the shoulder of an interstate or other roadway, you must take at least one of the following precautions:

  • Change lanes – If possible, you should change lanes to leave a full lane of travel adjacent to the emergency vehicle. So, if the emergency vehicle is on a right shoulder, you would move left a lane, and if the vehicle is on a left shoulder or median, you would move right one lane.
  • Slow down – Of course, if it is unsafe, or if you cannot change lanes due to another vehicle being in the way, you should proceed with caution, slow down and keep your distance from other vehicles.

What Are the Consequences of Violating Arizona Emergency Vehicle Laws?

If you fail to do what the law requires, you could be cited for failing to follow what is commonly called the “move over” law in Arizona. Fines can range from $150 to as much as $650 per offense. In minor cases, you could face two points being added to your license record. In serious cases, you could face up to eight points if you cause an accident. If you injure or kill someone, you could even face criminal charges in Arizona.

Can Emergency Vehicles Disregard Traffic Laws?

Emergency vehicles in Arizona are permitted to run red lights and drive above the posted speed limit. However, some restrictions apply to them. First, emergency vehicles approaching an intersection do not actually have a right to “fly” right through the traffic. Instead, they must “claim” or “dominate” the intersection. Even police must follow these basic rules. It just means they must approach with caution, use lights and varying audible sirens to make sure they are noticed. Then, they can proceed if it is safe.

In other words, Arizona law does not relieve emergency vehicle operators from their duty to safely and cautiously operate within the law. The law allows emergency vehicles to avoid certain typical traffic delays, but it does not give operators the right to needlessly endanger the public.

What Should You Do If You Are Injured on the Road?

Whether you are a road crew worker or emergency services provider, if you are seriously injured by a negligent driver, you have rights. You may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries and should speak to one of our car accident attorneys in Arizona.

Likewise, if you are injured because a careless driver behaved recklessly or erratically at the sight of an emergency vehicle, you could be entitled to compensation for your property damages as well as money for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Arizona law gives you two years from the date of your accident to seek compensation. If you wait too long, you could lose your right to recover compensation forever. In some cases, you have less time to act. Under a little-known law in Arizona, A.R.S. § 12-821.01, you must file a notice of claim with a government unit within just 180 days of your injuries caused by a negligent police officer, firefighter, county or city board or commission or any other agent of a state or local municipality or government agency. If you fail to meet that notice deadline, your claim could be barred.

Get Help from Our Arizona Car Accident Lawyers

For many reasons, including the tight deadlines which apply to emergency vehicle accident cases, you should seek legal help immediately if you are involved in an accident with one of these vehicles. For a free consultation, contact Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC today.