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What to Do When Encountering a Police Car with Flashing Lights

Driving Tips
jason-baxtorJason Baxter

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Anyone who studied for and passed their driving test would have known at some point exactly what they should do when they encounter a police car that has its lights flashing. 

Known as move-over laws, they are laws and guidelines for how to proceed, both when you approach a stopped emergency vehicle, including a police vehicle, ambulance or fire truck, whose lights are flashing, and for when they approach you on the road while both of you are in motion.

Unfortunately, move-over law violations are on the rise. If you don’t obey move-over laws, it can get costly. In Ontario, a first offence, if convicted, can potentially mean a fine of between $400 and $2,000 and three demerit points. That minimum fine is higher than for a speeding ticket for travelling at 40kms over the limit.   

What to Do When You Approach a Police Car Whose Lights Are Flashing

The basic requirement for approaching a police vehicle stopped in the direction of your travel, and with their lights flashing, is to slow down and proceed with caution.

  • While slowing down, assess the speed of the traffic around you and the roadway conditions (i.e., roadwork, fog, rain or snow) 
  • Brake as early as is safe to do so. Also, brake gradually to keep control of your vehicle and to allow other traffic time to adjust to your lower speed
  • If the roadway has two or more lanes in the same direction, you are required to travel in the lane that is away from the emergency vehicle. If that means you must change lanes, use standard safe lane changing procedures with extra caution, including checking traffic in front, behind and beside you, and signalling your lane change before you move over.

What to Do When a Police Vehicle Approaches You With Its Lights Flashing

The basic requirement for reacting to an approaching police vehicle is to immediately and safely slow down and bring your vehicle to a stop as far to the right side of the roadway as possible.

  • Keep your vehicle parallel to the roadway and do not stop in intersections
  • While slowing down, assess the speed of the traffic around you and the roadway conditions (i.e., fog, rain or snow)
  • Brake as early as is safe to do so, and brake gradually to keep control of your vehicle and to allow other traffic time to adjust to your lower speed
  • Check both sides, and in front and behind your vehicle before signalling your intention to move to the right side of the roadway, which you should do even if you are not changing lanes.
  • When it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the right side and come to a safe stop
  • Throughout the entire procedure, avoid making any sudden changes in direction or speed and be especially aware of other vehicles quickly approaching you from behind.

If you get to know how to react around emergency vehicles and follow the requirements, you will give police officers and other first responders the safety and space they need to perform their crucial work.

If you get a ticket for not obeying move-over laws, learn more about how to fight it in our article “Why You Should Always Choose the “Trial Option” on a Traffic Ticket”.


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