We had occasion recently to be driving north on Interstate 5 when we noticed a fire engine from Tangent coming up behind, lights blazing and sirens wailing.

So we did what we thought the law required: We made our way over to the shoulder on the right and waited there for the emergency vehicle to pass.

And we felt like chumps: No other vehicle did that. No other vehicle, as far as we could tell, even slowed down.

It made us wonder: Has the law regarding emergency vehicles on interstate highways changed? Do we no longer need to pull over when an emergency vehicle is approaching with lights on?

Not at all, said Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police: The law still requires vehicles to pull over – or, if that can’t be done safely – to open up a lane so that an emergency vehicle running with lights and sirens can make its way to an emergency call.

Hastings said it’s a law that frequently is ignored, especially on interstate highways, but it’s a law nevertheless. And, he added, it can be a problem for first responders trying to get to the scene of an emergency call.

“It’s pretty frustrating for first emergency responders,” Hastings said. “People are not paying attention to what’s coming up behind them.”

He said drivers sometimes assume that the law won’t be enforced, perhaps reasoning that officers responding to an emergency have more urgent matters to deal with than citing someone on the spot for not making way.

And, as it turns out, that’s often the case – but not always, Hastings said. It’s not out of the question that an officer responding to an emergency will make a note of a license plate on a vehicle blocking the way and will either follow up later or send that information along to another officer.

But worrying that you might get a ticket for not getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle shouldn’t be your primary motivation for following the law. You should get out of the way so that first responders quickly can get to a scene where seconds sometimes spell the difference between life and death. (mm)

Mike McInally is the editor of the Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6097 or mike.mcinally@lee.net

(2) comments


Thank you. I can't count the number of time this has happened in my daily drives around Albany, to and from work or running errands. The fact that drivers can be so oblivious is frightening. If they can't see or don't pay enough attention to see a big red vehicle with lights and sirens flashing, what else don't they see? If they do see and choose to respond the way they do, how amazing their total disregard for others...


They should just mount GoPros in the emergency vehicles, then find people willing to volunteer to go through the videos to find cars/drivers who don't move. After review by appropriate personnel on each specific incident, send them as big a ticket as the law allows.

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