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Traffic behavior can mean the difference between life and death, especially when it comes to the response of emergency services.

Raymond Zuidwijk, experienced ambulance driver and instructor in specialist driving skills, warns of the decreasing 'free space' for emergency services in our increasingly busy traffic. “Not enough attention is paid to this in basic driver training,” he says, underlined by an urgency for better public awareness and cooperation.

The interaction between priority vehicles and everyday road users is crucial. According to the Dutch Institute of Public Safety (NIPV) every motorist can contribute to a safer Netherlands. The key is to remain calm and respond appropriately when a vehicle approaches with flashing lights and sirens. This does not mean endangering traffic, but staying calm and assessing the situation.

Priority vehicles such as ambulances and police cars are allowed to break traffic rules if necessary — such as speeding or going through red lights. These drivers are specifically trained to make safe choices in stressful situations. It is therefore important that other road users have confidence in the actions of these professionals and make space correctly.

The procedure is clear: continue your way at the permitted speed until it is safe to make room. At roundabouts it is recommended to continue driving until the emergency vehicle has left the roundabout. It is crucial to maintain safety, even when you are standing at a red traffic light. It is better to wait and only make room if it is safe to do so, even if this means that a priority vehicle has to wait a while.

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Ambulance
Photo: © Pitane Blue - Ambulance

A common problem is late detection of priority vehicles, especially at higher speeds and when approaching from behind. Regular checking of the mirrors is essential to detect these vehicles in time. In addition, it is wise to always maintain sufficient distance from the vehicle in front, so that there is room to make room for an approaching priority vehicle if necessary.

The awareness that after passing one priority vehicle, more may follow is also an important point of attention. The message is clear: be alert and anticipatory, because every second counts for the emergency services on the way to an emergency.

NIPV

The Netherlands Institute for Public Safety (NIPV) connects and strengthens the security regions, central government and crisis partners with research, education, support and information. The focus is on four social themes: climate adaptation, safe energy transition, information-driven security and social resilience.

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