22 March, 2019
How does the law treat the driver of an emergency vehicle passing through a red light whilst on an emergency call, probably on the way to save another life?
In the case of Craggy v Chief Constable of Cleveland Police (2009) two emergency vehicles collided t a traffic light junction, one a police car the other a fire engine. Both were responding to emergency calls. Both were sounding their sirens and displaying emergency lights. The lights were on green for the police car and red for the fire engine. The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 reg.36(1)(b) permit the driver of an emergency vehicle to treat the junctions as a give way. The fire engine tried to attribute some blame on the driver of the police car arguing was obliged to drive in such a manner that he could stop in the event that another emergency vehicle emerging from the junction. The court found the police driver one-third to blame. On appeal the court found that imposing a duty on driver to expect the possibility of an emergency vehicle passing through the junction was too high a burden, particularly as he was sounding his siren. The accident was caused by the fire engines negligence in entering the junction when it was unsafe to do so. The fire engine was entirely to blame for the collision.
In the case of Alan Armsden (Executor of the Estate of Rachael Cheesewright, Deceased) v Kent Police (2009) A police officer was responding to an emergency and had been driving fast along a main road using the car's blue warning light but not its siren. After driving round a Mrs Ceesewright pulled out of a junction infront of the police car to turn right towards it. The two cars collided and she was killed The court held that the driver of the police care was negligent in failing to use the siren However the driver of the police car was entitled to assume that Mrs Cheeswright would not emerge without looking and was therefore negligent. The police car was going to fast . Not using the siren had exacerbated the danger. Mrs Cheeswright was found to 40 per cent to balme and the police car and 60 per cent
In the case of Mandy Jane Aldridge v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (1998) Miss Aldridge was struck by a police car answering an emergency call as she crossed Oxford Street in London. The judge found that the police officer had been negligent in driving at 25 mph the wrong way along Oxford Street at 5.00pm as the street was full of shoppers and workers. On appeal the judge held that the Green Cross Code and Highway Code required pedestrians to be observant. Miss Aldridge had been aware of the presence of a police car for some 6 seconds before she stepped out into its path between parked and should have exercised more caution. She was held to be one third to blame.
The answers seems to be that sirens and lights don't give the drivers of emergency vehicles the right to speed or pass through red lights. They have to proceed with caution and treat traffic light junctions as if the there were no lights and give way to traffic that may have a right of way. Equally other road users and pedestrians need to be aware of the possibility that emergency vehicles may be in the vicinity. Everyone needs to be careful. Drivers of vehicles have to be especially careful. They are driving a potentially lethal weapon and the courts will usually take this into account when dealing with pedestrian claims or cyclists who often come off worse in a collision.
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