Red light takes priority over vehicle sirens
About 12:15 p.m. Friday, May 25, we were on Beretania Street and stopped at Punchbowl Street for a red light. Behind us, a fire truck had its siren on as it approached, but went silent as it took its place in line. All the lanes were packed; there was no place anyone could move to clear a path. People didn't want to run the red light, so honored the light over the fire engine. But when the siren blared about three long blasts, the two cars in front of us went through the red light and we followed. What is the protocol in a situation like this? Is one supposed to get out of the way of fire engines no matter what and run the risk of being injured or injuring someone else, or should one run the risk of causing people to die in a fire because traffic prevented the firefighters from doing their job as quickly as possible? A mahalo to the firefighters for their diligence, skill and caring and to whoever can enlighten us about these rules.
Answer: The puzzling thing about this situation is why the fire truck turned off its siren once it reached the intersection.
That matter needs further investigation, said Capt. Terry Seelig, spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department.
"Emergency vehicles use lights and sirens to request the right of way," he said.
But as to what motorists should do, HFD "advises drivers not to enter an intersection on a red light, even if an emergency vehicle behind them is using its lights and sirens," he said.
Seelig provided some tips to help emergency vehicles get through the busy streets. If you hear a siren or see flashing lights:
» Remain calm.
» Move to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so and come to a complete stop.
» Never stop in an intersection or enter an intersection if the light is red or if cross-traffic does not yield.
» Clear the intersection as soon as it is safe to do so.
Seelig said firefighters are trained to use their lights and sirens when responding to an emergency.
He pointed to the city's Traffic Code (Section 15-4.4, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu), which "mandates that a vehicle use warning devices when it operates as an authorized emergency vehicle."
Therefore, he said, "an HFD apparatus would use its lights and sirens from when it begins its response until it arrives at the scene of the emergency" to signal that "an emergency vehicle is approaching, please move aside in a safe manner to let the vehicle pass."
Q: You said the city would start resurfacing Lowrey Avenue in Manoa this spring, but spring is gone and nothing has been done. What happened?
A: Actually, we reported bids would go out in the spring and work was expected to take place later this year (Kokua Line, March 14).
The city is processing a contract with the apparent low bidder, Road Builders Corp., said Eugene Lee, director of the Department of Design and Construction. Once that is done, a start date will be set.
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