Yielding to Ambulance/Police coming opposite way?

I am puzzled over what the requirement is for yielding to emergency vehicles here in France.
Where I am from its required to pull off the road and stop when an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights and sirens on. Spending 25 years as a first responder made me realize the value of this.
So far in France I don’t recall ever seeing anyone pull over on a 2 way road when an ambulance with its flashing lights on comes the opposite direction. It probably doesn’t help that they all seem to drive around with their lights flashing all the time but no sirens going.
I looked on the French Gov Highway Code but don’t see an answer there. https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/codes/id/LEGITEXT000006074228/
Does anyone know what the actual rule is?

En toutes circonstances, tout conducteur est tenu de céder le passage aux véhicules d’intérêt général prioritaires annonçant leur approche par l’emploi des avertisseurs spéciaux prévus pour leur catégorie.

Le fait, pour tout conducteur, de ne pas respecter les règles de priorité fixées au présent article est puni de l’amende prévue pour les contraventions de la quatrième classe.

Tout conducteur coupable de cette infraction encourt également la peine complémentaire de suspension, pour une durée de trois ans au plus, du permis de conduire, cette suspension pouvant être limitée à la conduite en dehors de l’activité professionnelle.

Cette contravention donne lieu de plein droit à la réduction de quatre points du permis de conduire.

It does not say you must pull off the road and stop, just that you must give way.
I imagine if an emergency vehicle is coming at you head on, on your side of the road, most people would give way.
My impression is that drivers do pull in to the side when the emergency vehicle is approaching from behind to allow it to overtake, and make way at roundabouts etc. But I agree, I have seen this not happen.

As far as I know the philosophy in France is different to the UK. The priority in the UK is to get the patient to the hospital ASAP, in France that aim is balanced with working on the patient in transit. I first came across such an explanation when there was criticism about the time Diana’s ambulance took to get to Pitie-Salpetriere. This could be total twaddle, but I have noted ambulances in our area heading to our local hospital at a steady, not fast, rate with blue lights flashing. Which would seem conducive to treatment not haste.


Judging by the excellent TV documentary series, Ambulance, Code Red’, this is no longer the case in the UK. Not only do paramedics (there seems to be no mention these days of ‘ambulance drivers’) spend a long time at accident and incident scenes when required but also in some areas there are fast cars with a paramedic and a doctor on board racing to assist the ambulance staff. Often the doctor and paramedic travel in the ambulance. I can only assume that the paramedic from the ambulance brings their car along behind.

it surely has to be a matter of judgement according to the prevailing circumstances.
Stopping dead at the head of line of traffic could cause much trouble for the emergency service vehicle’s progress.
There are basically 3 types of ambulance in France -

  • Private Ambulance companies transporting patients to hospital or hospital to hospital transfers (some patients with urgent medical conditions);
  • Sapeur Pompier attending road accidents or serious medical incidents
  • SAMU based at Hospitals

Each has their specific place and sense of urgency. The drivers are well skilled in negotiating their way through traffic but just stopping dead could impede their progress. Drivers should “read the road” and make a judgement based on that.
Not only that, but on some narrow country lanes, driving off the carriageway could equally cause further delay. It is best to be guided by the signals directed at you by the driver of the emergency vehicle who will have already worked out a plan to negotiate their way through any log-jam,
These days, paramedic training is extremely well rehearsed and the days of bundling patients onto trolleys and making a dash for the hospital have long gone. Patients are often well stabilised before they are loaded on to the ambulance and slight delays in traffic management become of little consequence.


I always felt people here were selfish in not getting out of the way IF THEY COULD SAFELY and the number of those horrible little sans permis on the breton roads used to continue toodling along whilst a blue light and sirens-blazing vehicle is behind them whether it was ambulance of fire or even police. I was always told to get out of the way inthe UK if I could but here the attitude is totally different unless the driver feels he should stop or pull over. Another thing I laugh about is the obligatory first aid box we all should carry in our cars and what use they are in finding someone badly injured where,unless you had training would not know what to do, I certainly wouldn’t. A plaster just won’t stop a severed artery and the thin bandages neither.

Although looking at an emergency vehicles with lights flashing etc you cannot tell whether it has the patient on board or not. Getting to the patient/victim/incident quickly is always important.

In the UK it is fairly simple - two people up front = no patient in the back.

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It’s easy to dismiss as useless, the things we rarely use… I’ve certainly got cupboards full of stuff which hasn’t seen the light of day for years… BUT… carrying some sort of helpful first aid bits and bobs in the car can make a difference in an emergency…

Out in a group… down by the beach… some of the guys opening the oysters for us all to enjoy. Good grief… those oyster knives are sharp… one small slip of knife against shell … and the chap cut his hand… blood everywhere and shrieks of panic from some of the ladies.

Folk dashed to their cars… out came a variety of bits and bobs… and the calmest amongst the gang simply took control.

Doused in antiseptic and with the bleeding staunched… he was soon proudly (but very gently) waving his bandaged hand at the rest of us.

One never knows what sort of emergency one might come across… but being prepared is better than being without… in my view.


It’s surprising what you can do with any type of bandage… thick or thin. It can be used very effectively as a tourniquet which can/will stem the flow of blood in an emergency situation… even a pair of stockings.

There are courses very often run at Fire Stations for emergency first aid training as well as at voluntary organisations.
It’s all about prioritising - breathing, bleeding, fractures and keeping the patient as safe as possible from further injury.
A non trained first aider using their basic intelligence can (and does) react well when the chips are down - even if it’s just down to holding back/dispersing the onlookers and giving the patient some fresh air and re-assurance whilst waiting for professional help to arrive :wink:
Never underestimate your own ability to help.


In my experience… hearing the sirens warns us all… check the mirrors/look ahead… to locate the noise…
on catching sight of the flashing lights, the brain swiftly checks to make sure that my vehicle is not obstructing, while also watching/preparing for emergency tactics from the other cars…

As folk move out of the way (as necessary), allowing safe passage…blue lights flash but the sirens cease as the emergency vehicle is now able to work its way onward… and sirens only bellow out again when essential to warn yet more drivers ahead… “get out of the way, please”

This is our experience over the years… from all directions… behind, frontal, sideways (roundabouts/junctions)

latest event, near Perigueux… we and several other cars were able to pull off the road into a lay-by… not often as convenient as that…

The message I took home from my PSC1 course run by the local Red Cross was that you actually do the minimum and hand off to a professional as soon as possible (which can be a very long wait in some circumstances). This is a far cry from my days in the St. John Ambulance, when we were definitely more hands on.

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In some areas of the UK prior to the NHS Reorganisation Act 1973 which came in to effect in 1974, St John Ambulance were contracted by local authorities (whose responsibility it was then) to provide an Ambulance Service. They often worked closely alongside the statutory organisations thereafter and performed alongside their counterparts on major incident training. Ambulances were usually kept in service for 7 years before capital replacement and St John Ambulance were often given first refusal before they went off to auction.

Speaking from my experience on the other side of the coin on this one, I can tell you that the best thing to do in the presence of an emergency vehicle requesting precedence, is to put the nearside indicator on, move over as far to the nearside of the road as possible, and slow down gently.
Putting the indicator on shows the driver of the emergency vehicle that you are aware of their presence.
If possible, by all means pull over and stop IF it is safe to do so, but do it gently and smoothly.
Remember that the emergency driver has seen you before you have seen him/her, and has already formulated their driving plan. Therefore, please do not slam your brakes on as that really messes things up.

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