In Order to Yield the Right of Way to an Emergency Vehicle, You Have to Know it’s an Emergency Vehicle
Under Virginia law, drivers have to yield the right of way—within reason—to emergency vehicles, including police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. This statute is a no-brainer when it's clear that the emergency vehicles are responding to an actual emergency—their sirens are blaring, their lights are flashing, and (ideally) the police are shouting something like “get out of the way!” into their car megaphones. It's much more of a grey area, though, if a driver doesn't realize that the vehicles gaining on him in his rear-view mirror actually require the right of way, and their drivers aren't just in a hurry to get home for dinner.
Failing to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle is an extremely serious offense in the state of Virginia; a conviction can result in jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and the confiscation of your license. In order to make a charge stick, the authorities have to prove that the emergency vehicles were clearly marked, and that a driver used all the means at his disposal to warn other motorists out of the way. For example, it's not uncommon for unmarked police cars in Virginia to engage in high-speed chases, but if the driver of that car neglects to stick his portable siren on the roof, it would be hard to argue that you failed to yield the right of way. In fact, you may simply have thought the driver was nuts and refused to yield as a matter of principle.
Questions? Call the experienced traffic attorneys at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman for a free consultation!