We received a question about California Vehicle Code sec. 21806. That section requires that when an emergency vehicle approaches flashing red, "surrounding traffic" must make way. Here's the question:
"I take "surrounding traffic" to mean traffic both in front of the emergency vehicle moving in the same direction AND oncoming traffic (moving in the opposite direction). Is that accurate, or is it not required that taffic moving in the opposite direction yield?"
The term, "surrounding traffic" is not defined in the California Vehicle Code, but it would almost certainly be interpreted as including oncoming traffic, as well as traffic approaching from the left or right. Merriam-Webster's defines "surround" as "to enclose on all sides." Moreover, interpreting the statute as applying only to traffic traveling in the same direction would lead to the absurd result that, when approaching an intersection and trying to make a left turn, an emergency vehicle would encounter drivers from the left, right, or opposite side of the intersection proceeding through it with impunity, blocking the way.