Good Question: Should you pull over for volunteer firefighters?

May 14, 2018 07:14 AM

You know to pull over when fire trucks are racing to the scene of a fire, but should there be a law requiring you to pull over for volunteer firefighters and their blue lights, too?

Pat Taney was asked about that for this week's Good Question report.

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When a fire breaks out, every second counts for both professional and volunteer firefighters.

We know the law, you pull over for red lights but it's not required for blue or courtesy lights.

At the Brighton Fire Department, there are both paid and volunteers.

"In New York State, they are strictly a courtesy light so we're asking for permission to get by you but it is not mandated by law that you yield like it is with a normal fire truck," says Brighton Fire Chief Stephen MacAdam.

Safety is the reason behind this. Professional firefighters are highly trained to race to a scene in their trucks, but who's to say volunteers won't be just as safe?

After all, these blue lights aren't given out freely. Clean driving records are required and the chief, who issues the lights, can pull them at any time.

Volunteer firefighters, especially in rural areas, are critical in emergency situations and their supporters argue holding them up in traffic isn't wise.

But complicating things, online shops, where anyone, who's not even a volunteer can buy blue lights. We found several.

"You could go online, a supply store and buy blue or green lights," says Chief MacAdam.

Pat Taney: That's got to be frustrating? 

Chief MacAdam: It happens every so often but the county keeps an eye out for it. If they see it, the police can get involved and penalize someone operating it improperly or someone who should not be issued a courtesy light.

As for the legitimate volunteers, by law, you don't have to yield on the roadway, but next time, they ask you to reconsider.

"When you give us that courtesy, you could be helping you, your neighbor, or someone you know," says Chief MacAdam.

New York recently passed a law to include volunteers in the move over law, meaning if they're on the side of the road with blue lights on, you have to move over. We checked -- there's no pending legislation to allow them to bypass traffic.


Pat Taney

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