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.
An article series on emergency driving in Sweden & the emergency drivers – Part 1
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.
So, what exactly does emergency driving mean?
In short, emergency driving is a number of traffic situations where it is allowed, for some specific occupational groups, to drive in a manner that the law normally does not allow. In Sweden there is three different degrees of urgency that each state what exceptions are allowed. But how the driving itself is conducted can vastly vary and is mainly determined by 4 factors.
- What kind of situation the emergency driver is heading for.
- How time-critical it is for him or her to arrive at the destination.
- What the traffic situation looks like.
- The driver’s own risk assessment.
Emergency driving is therefore a complex task that places very high demands on the driver’s knowledge and ability to make crucial decisions in stressful situations. The responsibility that rests with the driver during the emergency driving is extensive and there is no one to blame if things goes wrong. To create some clarity in advance about the driver’s ability to “break” the traffic rules, all emergency driving in Sweden is divided into three different degrees of urgency, we will return to these shortly.
What authority does an emergency driver have? And do emergency drivers never have to follow the traffic rules?
In the role as an emergency driver, the primary task is to drive his vehicle to the specified location in a way that promotes safety and risk minimization. If circumstances require, the emergency driver has the opportunity to make certain exceptions to a number of traffic rules. However, the exceptions may only be applied provided that the driving can be done without undue risk and that extra caution is applied. Emergency driving does in no way automatically mean high speeds and running red lights, even though the driver may have a statutory opportunity to do so.
Since there are many different occupational groups that may perform emergency driving and their assignments can differ significantly, the laws on emergency driving are different depending on assignment and purpose of the driving. But what they all have in common is that they can only make exceptions to the traffic rules or request a clear way if the circumstances require it.
So, what groups are allowed to perform emergency driving in Sweden?
It is a common misconception that only police and rescue services are allowed to drive with blue lights requesting other road users to move. But in fact there are a multiple occupational groups, even within the private sector that use emergency vehicles in their daily operation. For example, since the start in 2016 we at Safe@Work have trained hundreds of emergency drivers from more than ten different authorities and private companies. What they all have in common is that they have assignments important to the society an which may require them to progress quickly.
- Examples of emergency drivers in Sweden:
- Traffic controller
- Fire departments
- Police & Customs
- Protection Guards
- Technicians of equipment important to the society
- Jour physicians
- Prison transports
- Maritime/Sea Rescue
- Transport of organs, doctors or medical supplies
In part 3 of the article series we will tell you more about the demands that are set for Swedish emergency drivers and what is required of you to become an emergency driver. (Länk krävs)
What regulates which traffic rules an emergency driver needs to follow?
It is the degree of urgency that governs which traffic rules the emergency driver may make exceptions to, and if blue lights and sirens may be used to demand clear way. The degrees of urgency are divided into 3 levels and give the driver different legal conditions to consider. The degree of urgency is in turn governed by the situation to which the emergency driver is heading, as well as his assignment at the destination.
The classification of the three degrees of urgency in Sweden are:
- Non time critical assignment (Tjänsteutövning)
- Urgent assignments (Brådskande tjänsteutövning)
- Emergencies. (Trängande fall)
- The degrees of urgency can be described differently in different occupational groups. For example, the names Prio 1, 2 & 3 are commonly used, but they still refer to the same legal classification and regulation.
In part 2 of the article series you can read more about what rules applies in emergency driving according to the different degrees of urgency and how they are determined. (Länk krävs)
How are other road users supposed to act when an emergency vehicle approaches?
Whether it is an emergency vehicle or any other road user, you should always show consideration and facilitate their continued journey. But when it is an emergency vehicle approaching, it is extra important that you quickly create space for a safe passage. However, in Sweden you are not allowed to violate any traffic rules when doing so. Act calmly, clearly and create space to the extent possible. Pay attention to the intention and signals from the emergency driver and try to let them safely pass.
In part 4 of the article series you will find out how the drive and the interaction with other road users can be experienced for the person behind the wheel of an emergency vehicle. (Länk krävs)
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@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.
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.