Skip to main content

Developed and maintained 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.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services must:
  • Ensure on call personnel are made aware of, and conform to legal requirements when responding to fire stations on receiving an emergency call
  • Regularly monitor their drivers' entitlement to drive (Section 87(2) Road Traffic Act 1988
  • Ensure compliance with the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
  • Ensure that an appropriate driver training and maintenance of skills programme is in place, and that drivers satisfy medical requirements
Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider the impact of the working/driving time regulations particularly with retained duty system personnel who may drive commercial vehicles in their main employment contract
  • Ensure appropriate arrangements and control measures are in place to identify and control the hazards associated with lone working en route to incidents. This may apply to officers responding in cars in particular (See Working alone - Health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working)
  • Ensure that all personnel are aware of the dangers of multi-tasking and its contribution to road accidents (Highway Code General Advice Para 148-150 - Driver Distraction)
  • Consider working with partner agencies to provide information to members of the public on the correct actions to take when encountering responding emergency vehicles

Tactical actions

Fire control operators should:
  • Consider how words and phrases used in mobilisation messages might influence the behaviour of responding personnel
  • Ensure that relevant information and any changes at the incident that may influence the urgency of their attendance or choice of access route is communicated to attending personnel whilst en route
Incident commanders should:
  • Take account of the impact of fatigue and stress when assigning operational personnel to incidents particularly during spate conditions.
All personnel should:
  • Ensure that vehicles are driven in accordance with service policy and procedure
  • Immediately report all road traffic collisions in accordance with service policy