When you need the services of firefighters or paramedics seconds can seem like hours.
Sooner is always better in situations like this so some traffic lights are equipped with sensors that listen for sirens and change the signals to make way for emergency vehicles.
Not knowing what the priority signal lights meant led one driver to make a choice that could have resulted in a collision in a Ladysmith intersection.
It makes sense that emergency vehicles approach a green light so that traffic in front of them is not stopped blocking the intersection.
The other directions face a red signal so that all other traffic stops to grant priority. This is what the white and blue lights tell drivers.
If you face a white light, the emergency vehicles are approaching from behind you. If you see a blue light, they are either coming toward you or from your left or right.
The blue and white lights flash while the traffic lights are being set to accommodate the path of the emergency traffic.
When these lights are on steadily the signals have been set and will remain set until the emergency vehicle passes.
After this has happened, they will turn off and the traffic lights will resume normal operation.
Since a cyclist has the same duties as the driver of a car, they must yield to emergency vehicles too.
Pedestrians are not included in the yielding to emergency vehicles legislation, but they must obey the signals at the intersection.
Being perhaps the most vulnerable road user, it would be sensible to make way.
Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca