Where to turn when emergency lights and sirens approach on Hwy 17

Every now and then, Street Smarts receives questions from readers who are too shy to give their name. Here's one of them: "Just a quick question prompted by some accidents during rush-hour on 17 this past week in the rain. What is the proper protocol for yielding to emergency vehicles when stuck in traffic? In my years of commuting over the hill, my experience has usually been that vehicles split the lanes and emergency vehicles go through the middle. In one accident back-up, many cars were trying to move over from the left lane to the right lane to clear the left lane for emergency vehicles but this obviously backed up traffic even more as there were twice as many cars trying to squeeze into the right lane but the right lane was already bumper-to-bumper backed up, so the would-be lane changers were stuck between the two lanes. Some cars were splitting the lanes, but others clearly couldn't decide what to do and it ended up creating what looked like some needless delay for emergency responders. Wondering if it is actually expected that drivers will split the lanes? Maybe a note on the electronic billboards would be helpful, too." Highway 17 does pose some special challenges for emergency crews, especially along the portions of the highway that have not been widened. I sent the shy reader's question to officer Brad Sadek, spokesman for the local CHP office. In responding, he cited California Vehicle Code section 21806, which instructs drivers to  yield the right of way to emergency responders by moving their vehicle to the right side of the road, clear of any intersections, and stop and remained stopped until the emergency vehicle(s) pass. The section also tells drivers to do whatever emergency responders instruct them to do. Read the full section at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21806.htm. "On some roads, State Route-17 being a perfect example, it can be difficult or nearly impossible for drivers to move to the right," said Sadek. "As we respond with lights and siren, also known as 'Code-Three,' we often see people attempt to move over to the right. Unfortunately, there are many areas where no shoulders exist. Nonetheless, emergency personnel is still required to respond to an incident in a reasonably safe an expedient manner, so how do we do it?" They tell drivers where to go on the road using the public address systems mounted inside their vehicles. "In a way, we part the sea of traffic, clearing a space for us to safely respond," he explained. "Safe use of this unique response technique requires us to respond much slower than we would using the left lane entirely, because we are essentially directing each motorist to move their vehicle in a particular manner. It also requires us to be very diligent due to the fact a motorist might decide to pull to the right at the last moment causing a collision." Sadek could not reiterate enough that motorists are to pull to the right when lights and sirens approach from behind unless the emergency responder dictates otherwise. "When a motorist finds themselves in bumper to bumper traffic with emergency personnel responding 'Code-Three' in their rear view mirror, they should turn down the radio and crack a window so they are able to hear the directions from the P.A. system and respond appropriately," he said.  
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