Over the recent holiday weekend, my wife and I were traveling west on Interstate 20 coming back into Abilene. Out of nowhere, I hear this huge dull horn honking right behind me. As I look in the rearview mirror I see it's an emergency vehicle right on my bumper, no sirens, just lights flashing.

The ambulance does a couple more quick honks until I move over to the right shoulder of the road. When it passes, I can tell it is an out-of-town, out-of-county ambulance service with its lights going but again NO siren. About a mile down the road, as the ambulance exits Interstate 20 heading to our local hospital, it turns on its siren.

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Did I break the law by not pulling over right away? According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, if an emergency vehicle is approaching you from in front or behind with its red and blue lights flashing, and the siren on, you MUST yield the right-of-way.

One should pull over to the RIGHT side of the road and STOP, in the safest way possible. However here is where the law is open for interpretation. My wife and I had a few (loud) discussions on whether I was in the wrong or the emergency vehicle operator was in the wrong.

If the emergency vehicle does not have a siren blaring, do you still have to pull over?  I consulted with Sergeant Marc Couch of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and here is how it is stated in the law books.

According to Texas Transportation Code, the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle engaging in conduct permitted by Section 546.001 shall use, at the discretion of the operator in accordance with policies of the department or the local government that employs the operator, audible or visual signals that meet the pertinent requirements of Sections 547.305 and 547.702

Source: Texas Transportation code

The emergency vehicle may be responding to a situation where the siren would not be appropriate, such as a medical emergency in a residential area. As Sergeant Couch informed me, "You were on the interstate and the left lane was open. The ambulance driver could have moved over. Again, if this was a medical emergency the vehicle driver should have been using the audible siren as well."

In Texas, as of January 2022, the law generally requires drivers to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles that are displaying their lights and sirens. If the siren is not sounding, it might indicate that the situation is not as urgent, but the lights alone still signify the need for caution.

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