Emergency driving – Part 2 – What rules can an emergency driver break & when can you drive with blue lights?
30 Augusti 2019
An article series on emergency driving in Sweden & the emergency drivers
A carefully selected group of professionals have been given unique opportunities to make exceptions to parts of the traffic legislation that otherwise applies to all of us. In Sweden, these exceptions may only be applied to certain situations which also sets high demands on both vehicles and drivers. The exceptions are governed in the 11th chapter of the Swedish Road Traffic Regulation. The driving where the exceptions are applied is often called blue-light driving or emergency driving.
Part 2: What rules is an emergency driver allowed to break & when is it allowed to drive with blue lights on?
In this article series we will, among other things, tell you more about what emergency driving really means, who is allowed to drive with the blue lights and sirens turned on, and answer what rules apply to emergency drivers. In the last article we will also be able to share the experience of a new emergency driver on his way towards a fire.
The driver of an emergency vehicle is faced with an extraordinarily complex task
During emergency driving the speed regulations are often exceeded, normal traffic rhythm is broken, and exceptions are made to how the roads normally are supposed to be used. However, the driving is always required to be done with extra caution and without imposing additional risk to anyone at or beside the road. Neither the emergency personnel or other road users may be exposed to additional risks. To make matters even more difficult, the driving most often occurs as a result of a serious incident which the driver is headed to. Therefore, while driving, the driver may need to prepare mentally on how to act at the possible life-threatening situation that awaits upon arrival. Therefore, much more is required from an driver of an emergency vehicle than a driver of an ordinary vehicle.
Degree of urgency: Non time critical assignment (Tjänsteutövning) (Prio 3)
This level of urgency is very common and is used when the situation is neither life threatening, nor any other time critical danger exists. The driving can be done in any vehicle, but the driver still has the possibility to make several exceptions to normal traffic rules. The driver can, for example and if the situation requires, drive and park where other road users are not allowed, such as on a walkway, bicycle path etc. Even if the driving is done in an emergency vehicle, blue lights and the siren may not be used at this degree of urgency.
Degree of urgency: Urgent assignments (Brådskande tjänsteutövning) (Prio 2)
This level of urgency is used when the situation is critical in time but there is no life-threatening situation. Driving can still take place in any vehicle even though the driver is now allowed to break the speed limits in order to get to the destination quickly. Blue lights and sirens is still not legal to use even if they are mounted on the car.
Degree of urgency: Emergencies. (Trängande fall) (Prio 1)
When a situation poses serious danger to a person or major property damage, a driver of an emergency vehicle has the opportunity to make even greater exceptions to the traffic rules. This degree of urgency is called emergencies (Trängande fall) and to apply this level of urgency the driver is required to drive a registered emergency vehicle. The driver may now make exceptions to multiple traffic rules, provided extra caution is taken. Blue lights and sirens may be used but is not required.
För samtliga utryckningsförare och angelägenhetsgrader gäller följande:
Rätten att frångå trafikreglerna gäller enbart om omständigheterna kräver det.
Särskild försiktighet skall alltid iakttas.
Föraren skall alltid lyda anvisningar av en polisman eller någon annan person som av myndighet är förordnad att övervaka eller ge anvisningar för trafiken.
Hastigheten får aldrig vara högre än att föraren behåller kontrollen över fordonet och kan stanna för varje förutsebart hinder.
For all emergency drivers and all levels of urgency, the following applies:
The right to make exceptions from the traffic rules only applies if circumstances require.
Extra caution must always be taken.
The driver must always obey instructions from a police officer or other person who is ordered by the authority to monitor or give directions for traffic.
The speed must never be higher than the driver retaining control of the vehicle and can stop for any foreseeable obstacle.
It is just to drive! Or is it?
A long-lived myth within the blue light collective is that you are allowed to break the traffic rules as much as you want when you have the blue lights and siren turned on. As an emergency driver you can often hear things like “On the way out of the scene of an accident there are no doubts”, “Just drive as quick as you want to, as long as there is no accident it´s fine”. However, this could not be further from the truth. Rather, the characterization of good emergency driving is set by the reflections and adjustments the driver makes in order to get from point A to B as efficiently and safely as possible. Most people can drive a vehicle in high speed if they take no regards to any increased risks. But to reach one’s destination quick, effectively and most important, without increased risks for any road user, That is the requirement by a successful emergency driver.
In part 4 of the article series you will hear the experience from a driver on his first “blue-light drive” on the way to a fire in a building. (Länk krävs)
What responsibility does an emergency driver have if an accident occurs during an emergency drive?
In addition to the moral responsibility in the event of someone being injured in an accident, or the fact that the accident itself may result that first-aid to the original accident does not arrive on time, the emergency driver has a far-reaching legal responsibility.
In the legal texts regarding criminal liability, the issue of guilt is regulated if an emergency driver has failed in any part prior to an accident. The basics is that the emergency driver is always responsible for all decisions taken during the journey even if there is someone at traffic control who has made the decision of the degree of urgency that the assignment entails. It is always the driver who have full responsibility to decide how he or she should act based on any given information. A driver can never delegate responsibility to anyone else and in Sweden, prison is included on the penalty scale if the emergency driver has failed in his assessment.
In part 3 of the article series, we will tell you more about the requirements placed on an emergency driver and what it takes for you to become one. (Länk krävs)
Safe@Work has gathered some of the Sweden’s leading experts in education and pedagogy for emergency drivers, together we have developed several quality-assured training courses for both new and existing emergency drivers.
Our instructors have a long experience from specialized driver training all over the world. The advanced driver training has been conducted in Europe, Asia and Africa. Both for armed drivers in armoured vehicles, as well as regular drivers performing their normal work assignments.
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