Providing emergency vehicles that are trying to reach their destinations with a clear path is not only a show of motorist decency but is non-negotiable in the eyes of the law.
When they hear the blare of the siren while on the road, most drivers immediately know what they should do. After looking at their rearview mirror and confirming that an emergency vehicle is swiftly closing the distance behind them, they will let the vehicle overtake them. This action could literally save a life.
Giving way to emergency vehicles is not just the mark of a considerate driver but also displays alertness to changing road conditions.
It is thus unfortunate and disconcerting to see some drivers in Singapore not giving way to emergency vehicles despite the latter trying their best to manoeuvre through heavy traffic especially during the morning and evening rush hours.
In 2019, Minister for Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam, in his reply to the media, stressed the important role road users play in reducing response times by giving way to ambulances and other emergency vehicles. He also mentioned that since 1 December 2017, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances are legally allowed to run red lights and make U-turns at non-designated junctions when responding to life-threatening emergencies.
As a move towards service excellence and operational preparedness, the SCDF has also put in place Service Quality Indicators that measure the time it takes for emergency vehicles to reach incident locations.
SCDF aims to respond to 80% of all emergency medical calls within the specified 11-minute time frame and strive to arrive at the incident location for any fire/ rescue call within eight minutes to mitigate the incident, 90% of the time.
Under the Civil Defence Act, it is an offence to obstruct an officer carrying out or performing emergency duties. Offenders can be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to six months, or both.
Under the Road Traffic Act, it is an offence for motorists to obstruct emergency vehicles that are responding to an emergency. The composition sums for this offence are from $150 for light vehicles, and $200 for heavy vehicles. Offenders will also receive four demerit points.
In cases where there are aggravating factors, the traffic police will prosecute offenders in court. First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to three months, or both. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned up to six months, or both.