Use That Siren

While traveling in New Jersey recently, I saw several disturbing emergency vehicle operations. First, an engine company was responding to a call in a downtown building, with its emergency lights on. But the driver only briefly touched the siren once or...


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Many states require siren use by emergency vehicle operators in order to qualify for special traffic privileges. New Jersey is more indirect because it imposes requirements upon other drivers when a siren is sounding. However, New Jersey does follow the UVC in applying the critical requirement that emergency vehicle operators must operate with due regard for the safety of all persons.

I don't know whether New Jersey's different approach to the law leads to limited siren usage such as I saw throughout the state. It might merely be local practice in the town that I was visiting. However, regardless of the legal language in New Jersey, or any other state, all emergency vehicle operators must comply with the overriding duty to drive with "due regard" for the safety of others.

Siren usage is but one component of safe, effective emergency vehicle operation. It is required in order to assert the legal privileges of emergency operations. But, more important, it is a critical element in every emergency vehicle operator's highest obligation, protecting the safety of everyone on the road.


Steve Blackistone, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an attorney and a member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, MD.