• Emergency driving – Part 4 – The first time performing blue light driving

    26 September 2019
  • Utryckningskörning - Del 4 - Min första blåljuskörning
  • 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 4: My first blue light driving – A story from a longtime emergency driver

    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.

    My first drive as a fire fighter on the way towards an emergency

    I had almost worked two years as a firefighter at the rescue service. I was still a substitute and of course had a desire to show my skills. As with most rescue services, there was a need for new personnel to accumulate new skills in order to be available to fill several different positions in the group.

    When I had gone through the rescue services’ old standardized driver training, it wasn’t long before I was asked if I felt ready to be a driver of our emergency vehicles. I neither wanted nor felt that I could say no. And why should I? I thought I was a rather good driver myself. Even though I had not driven trucks all to many times, my summer job as a truck driver meant that I had more experience than most of the rescue workers at the station. I only had to wait a couple of days before I had to turn on the sirens of the truck for the very first time – My first blue light driving. The alarm was about a fire in a building and I was placed as driver of our truck with the water tank. I was super-excited!

    In part 2 you can read more about how the degrees of urgency is set during an emergency.

    Unforeseen events make the task of blue light driving even more difficult

    The first setback came quickly, the GPS in the tanker didn’t work and I had no idea whether to take the right or left going from the fire station. I tried to put in the address on the phone, but when I saw the fire truck head of me, I tried to follow them instead. However, it is very difficult to keep up with a modern fire truck when driving a 20 ton tanker and when we drove up a motorway I lost them for the rest of the trip. I now felt a tsunami of stress wash all over me. I had to figure out the quickest route, so I picked up my phone to get help from Google Maps since I had almost filled in the address before I left the station. So, I thought it would not take that long….

    Close call – The consequences could have been fatal

    For maybe 30 seconds I was distracted and just as the phone started giving me instructions on how long I should continue on the highway, a car swung out in front of me. Both me and the brakes of the truck were screaming and a second later I pressed the horn trying to make the other driver aware. At the same time I felt the stress being replaced by anger. How could the other driver turn out in front of me? Didn’t he or she see my big truck with blue lights and sirens?! The rest of the trip I don’t remember much of. I remember being terribly angry with the other motorist and when I stopped at the destination, my legs shook so much that I barely got the brake down.

    How could the situation have been avoided?

    I was ill prepared for the task I had been assigned. Although I fairly well knew how to drive a truck, I wasn’t prepared for the situation that I suddenly ended up in. A good emergency driver can do so much more than steer his vehicle and drive fast. A skilled emergency driver prepares for his journey even before he or she has left the station. An experienced emergency driver understands that others will make mistakes and has a humility towards its own ability.


    Emergency drivers have an incredibly important task, the society must support the drivers by creating the right conditions for a safe drive. The consequences of a bad decision from an unexperienced driver can be fatal, with both deaths or life-long injuries as a result. By ensuring a basic level of knowledge for all existing and future emergency drivers, the risk of a serious incident can at least be minimized. A completed driver training that both increases risk awareness and provides the needed knowledge about laws and regulations, should be a requirement for all emergency drivers.

    Read more about today’s training requirements for emergency drivers in the third part of this article series on emergency driving in Sweden and its emergency drivers.

    Claes Pekkala

    Co-author of this article series in 4 parts as well as the driver of the tanker on the emergency-call is Claes Pekkala. Long-standing emergency driver and frequent advocate of increased skill-requirements for emergency drivers.

    About Safe@Work

    Safe@Work is an international organizer of safety courses with road safety and driver training as an area of ​​expertise. Over the years we have trained many different professional groups in safe driving, both in Sweden and abroad. We regularly train drivers of emergency vehicles, armored protection vehicles (Länk krävs), prisoner transports & drivers of regular service cars.

    Safe@Works Emergency Driver Training

    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.

    The training ranges from web-based to teacher-led training with training both on special training courses and on the road. We have a great experience from tailoring educational programs to blue-light organizations and we are happy to make a proposal based on your specific conditions and existing educational level.

    International missions

    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.