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by the NFCC

Control measure

Comply with road safety regulations

Control measure knowledge

The Road Traffic Act (for England, Scotland and Wales) and the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order, prohibit dangerous and careless driving. This applies to fire and rescue service personnel as well as to the public.

However, statutory services and other organisations are afforded specific exemptions law to undertake their duties. The Road Traffic Regulation Act (for England, Scotland and Wales), the Road Traffic Regulation (Northern Ireland) Order, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (for England, Scotland and Wales), and the Traffic Signs Regulations (Northern Ireland), exempt emergency vehicles from:

  • Observing speed limits
  • Observing keep left or keep right signs
  • Complying with traffic lights, including pedestrian controlled crossings

Emergency vehicle drivers may find themselves considering the contravention of signs and regulations where no exemption exists. In each case, decisions on such matters rely on the professional judgement of the personnel involved. Their decisions and actions must be justified, based on operational necessity and the practical options available.

Even where exemption exists, personnel must always give due regard to the way they drive, which should not put other road users or members of the public at a risk that cannot be justified.

When exercising the exemption to pass a red traffic light, drivers of emergency vehicles should avoid causing a member of the public to contravene the red light. The public do not have an exemption in law to contravene red traffic lights.

Only drivers who are trained to the appropriate standard are entitled to make use of exemptions. It is essential that the exemptions used are appropriate and their use in specific circumstances can be justified.

The exemptions for emergency vehicles do not apply to personnel driving to a fire station in order to mobilise from there. This particularly applies to retained duty system (on-call) personnel.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services must:
  • Ensure personnel understand the laws and regulations relating to driving, and the exemptions for emergency vehicles

  • Regularly check the validity of driving licences for all personnel who may carry out work-related driving

  • Ensure that all personnel who may carry out work-related driving are competent and medically fit to do so

Tactical actions

All personnel should:
  • Ensure that emergency vehicles are driven in accordance with current legislation, regulations and exemptions

  • Immediately report road traffic collisions in accordance with fire and rescue service policies and relevant legislation