Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency
vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted
lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric
conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the
vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed
by a traffic officer, do the following:
(a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of
every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall
immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway,
clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain
stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
(2) A person driving a vehicle in an exclusive or preferential use
lane shall exit that lane immediately upon determining that the exit
can be accomplished with reasonable safety.
(b) The operator of every street car shall immediately stop the
street car, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped until the
authorized emergency vehicle has passed.
(c) All pedestrians upon the highway shall proceed to the nearest
curb or place of safety and remain there until the authorized
emergency vehicle has passed.
Q. 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 traffic moving in the opposite direction yield?
May 18, 2009
Steven Daily: ...
A. 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.