I was at the intersection of Barnett Road and Highland Avenue just as the light turned green for the cars going west when an ambulance appeared about four or five cars behind us, its lights flashing and siren on. I was almost midway through the intersection, along with other cars, and we all continued through to the right side and immediately stopped. The ambulance was able to proceed with no problem. My question is, was that the right thing to do? Or should we have stopped in the intersection and let the ambulance wend its way through the cars? I know it is illegal to obstruct an intersection for any reason.
— J. Johnson
You handled this just perfectly.
Proper response to emergency vehicles is covered in ORS 811.145. It says if an ambulance or emergency vehicle that is using a visual or audible signal approaches your vehicle then you must do all of the following:
Yield the right of way to the ambulance or emergency vehicle; immediately drive to a position as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection; stop and remain in such position until the emergency vehicle or ambulance has passed.
So you don't want to just stop within an intersection and make the ambulance wend its way through or be blocking the ambulance from turning right or left if it needed to do so. You should clear the intersection and then pull over. As an aside, if you are traveling in the far left lane on a one-way road such as Riverside Avenue and an emergency vehicle comes up behind you or in one of the other lanes, then safely pull off to the left side of the road, don't cross three lanes to try and get to the right side of the road.
If a driver were to violate this law, the offense would be cited as a Class B traffic violation with bail listed as $260.
Dace Cochran is a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. Send questions to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or email email@example.com.