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Dealing with an emergency vehicle as a new driver

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

July 17, 2018

Young driver stories 5 min read

If you’re an avid reader of the Marmalade blog, you’ll probably know more about my driving journey than most. I like to share with other drivers exactly what my driving journey brings, so you can see firsthand how a new driver deals with everyday life on the road. Recently, I experienced dealing with my first emergency service vehicle on the road. Luck seemed to be on my side (not) because I had 2 to deal with within 2 days – joy! Without giving too much away, the whole situation went from bad to worse. Here’s how it all went wrong, and what not to do when you find yourself in the same situation.


It’s all gravy, baby

I like to think I know what to do when an emergency vehicle approaches. I learnt about it for my theory test, I’ve read (and written) blogs and articles about what to do and keeping your cool – honestly, I set off on every journey not even thinking about it, because I thought I’d know exactly what to do when one came… until it came!

Enter panic stations

Driving home from work like I do every day, I left the parkway and took the slip road off, heading towards a big roundabout – (my usual route home). In the distance, I heard the sirens of an ambulance and I can honestly say that all driving knowledge and common sense of what to do next completely left the window.

The slip road split in two, with me being in the right-hand lane wanting to take the 4th exit off. As the ambulance approached, I saw the people in the left-hand lane move over. Now, I had every intention of doing this, but being at the top and the first to go out onto the roundabout, there was nowhere for me to go. I couldn’t move over to the right due to being next to some railing, there were cars still coming around the roundabout so I couldn’t go on there – I was stuck!


The events that proceeded – I’m not sure I can even explain. I found myself moving out towards the right, so the ambulance had space to get through – but basically ended up facing the wrong way on the roundabout itself! I could see other drivers looking at the pure panic in my face, and questioning how I was even given a licence in the first place (and I have to say, I almost agreed). I completely got it wrong.

The worst part was, I knew what to do. I knew that I still had to follow the rules of the road and comply with traffic signs – but like I said, my common sense had gone and instead I was on a roundabout, facing the wrong way with a flashing ambulance next to me, and other drivers looking completely baffled at what on earth I was doing!

Commencing nightmare – take 2

After this catastrophe, I was on edge, but re-read a lot of info and drilled it into myself to calm down if an emergency vehicle does approach me whilst I’m driving! It worked and I set off to work the next day leaving it in the past and focusing on the day ahead. It was a sunny morning, the air con was on and the music was up – I was feeling good!

Now my bad luck doesn’t just happen once, it seems to collect up and hit me like a ton of bricks. Driving along and I see people in front moving over and I remember wondering what on earth was going on! A quick glance in my rearview mirror and I saw ANOTHER AMBULANCE! It was so close to the back of my car, I couldn’t see anything else apart from a big yellow bumper.


Remember the thing I said about common sense? Yeah, that went away again. I hit my brakes and moved over to the left, but in doing so nearly had a collision with the ambulance in question that was so close to the back of my car! It’s fair to say, I was shaken up. Aside from questioning why there are so many medical emergencies where I live, I calmed down, took a deep breath and carried on my journey to work.

Missing the obvious

You’re probably wondering how I missed it, however, I realised this ambulance didn’t have the flashing lights on at the time – just the siren. I had my music pretty loud that morning, so whilst I was singing along the ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack, unfortunately, I didn’t hear a thing, until it was almost too late.

Needless to say, every journey I go on now I have the volume of my music at a sensible level. I still sing my heart out like I’m auditioning for this year’s X-Factor, but I make sure it’s low enough so I can still hear what is going on around me.

Stick to what you know

It’s easy for me to say because my two near misses showed clearly I go into some sort of driving breakdown as soon as an emergency vehicle is near – but I’ve got to remember to keep my cool and stick to the rules of the road! If it is not safe for me to move over, there is nothing I can do.


Since this, I’ve been passed by ambulances and police cars – each one is fine! I’ve done my observations, moved over where safe, and not had a breakdown and ended up making the situation worse – an all-around winner I’d say.

Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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