Today’s correspondent from Victoria asks for ‘… a review on “Animal Ambulances”. They ask:
Do we move over and give way if there using red emergency lights?
There is an animal ambulance using red emergency lights in Bendigo. I’m all okay with moving over and giving way… just would like your opinion on this issue
This question requires us to again visit the Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic). Readers of this blog will be familiar with rules 78, 79 and 306. They say
REG 78 Keeping clear of police vehicles, emergency vehicles, enforcement vehicles and escort vehicles
(1) A driver must not move into the path of an approaching police vehicle, emergency vehicle, enforcement vehicle or escort vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue, red or magenta light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm….
REG 79 Giving way to police vehicles, emergency vehicles, enforcement vehicles and escort vehicles
(1) A driver must give way to a police vehicle, emergency vehicle, enforcement vehicle or escort vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue, red or magenta light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm.
REG 306 Exemption for drivers of emergency vehicles
A provision of these Rules does not apply to the driver of an emergency vehicle if—
(a) in the circumstances—
(i) the driver is taking reasonable care; and
(ii) it is reasonable that the provision should not apply; and
(b) if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving—the vehicle is displaying a blue or red flashing light or sounding an alarm.
A vehicle used to convey sick or injured animals is not a police vehicle, an enforcement vehicle nor an escort vehicle. Nor is it an emergency vehicle even though it may be described as an ambulance. An ambulance is, relevantly, a vehicle operated by or on behalf of Ambulance Victoria or an interstate ambulance service (Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) Dictionary).
As it is not an emergency vehicle, other drivers do not have to make way for them or give way to them and the driver has no exemption from the Road Rules.
Further an animal ambulance is not an exempt vehicle (Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2021 (Vic) Schedule 1 Vehicle Standards, cl 5 definition of ‘exempt vehicle’). I am also of the view that it is not a special use vehicle (cl 114(1) definition of ‘special use vehicle’). If it could be argued that it is a special use vehicle (eg ‘a vehicle built or fitted for use in hazardous situations on a road’) then the vehicle may be fitted with flashing yellow lights (cl 114(3)). If it is neither an exempt vehicle nor a special use vehicle, then the vehicle must not be fitted with a flashing light, of any colour, ‘without the written approval of the Secretary’ (cl 114(4)).
You do not have to move over or give way to an animal ambulance displaying a flashing red light, but there is no harm in doing so and we’d all probably want to if they are carrying a sick or injured animal to veterinary care.
This blog is made possible with generous financial support from the Australasian College of Paramedicine, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Natural Hazards Research Australia, NSW Rural Fire Service Association and the NSW SES Volunteers Association. I am responsible for the content in this post including any errors or omissions. Any opinions expressed are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or understanding of the donors.