Saturday 2 February 2013

Blue Light Taxonomy

Following on from my last blog '21 Miles' I thought it would be appropriate to share this is a fabulous post by Bobby McPeel, a Police Office and blogger who I have recently discovered! I go on and on about peoples bad driving and bizarre actions when confronted with a big yellow ambulance, flashing blue lights and sirens. Bobby McPeel sums up what they do perfectly. It may be police cars but peoples reactions are the same. Please just thing back to your highway code or 'Drivers: Take Note'! No where does it say slam on your breaks in the middle of a duel carriageway! Anyway I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!

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Blue flashing lights and sirens on an emergency vehicles often cause other drivers to do strange and crazy things. Over the years I have developed my own classification system for different drivers.


Upon seeing blue lights in their rear view mirror, this driver mounts the kerb or verge, regardless of the capability of their vehicle for off-road pursuits, and often to the horror of a passing pedestrian.


This driver pootles along without a care in the world until a big noisy police car appears from behind them. This will result in a ‘twitch of recognition’ which essentially is a reflex action involving a sharp turn of the steering wheel to the left, combined with the application of the brakes, causing the car to come to an abrupt halt. Often accompanied with a look of panic or shock.


A motorist who neither stops to pull over, nor maintains a reasonable speed. These are the most awkward and infuriating to pass because they gradually slow down, or ease off the gas a little and drift into a crawl, usually on a left hand bend or the brow of a hill, or directly opposite a vehicle coming the other way


Similar to the Twitcher but without the steering element. When glancing in their rear view mirror the driver will ”stamp” on the brake pedal, bringing the car to an immediate halt, usually in the middle of the road. Keeps the police driver on their toes and tests their reflexes to the limit.


No amount of blue strobe lights, siren changes, headlight flashing or gesticulating will wake this driver from their road slumber, nor deter them from their chosen course. Mirrors come as optional extras on their vehicles and many drive white vans.


A very distinctive driver who will see a car in front pull to the side of the road, not think to check behind, and overtake the car that has stopped, right into the path of the approaching police vehicle that will take evasive action. On occasion two of this species will meet at the same point, resulting multiple leapfrogging.


An indecisive and unpredictable motorist who can’t decide which way to go at the sight of a police car to the rear. A bit like a confused rabbit, darting left and right in a state of panic.


This particular driver exhibits a variety of different behaviours. Some will take the opportunity of a police vehicle passing by and use the gaps in the gaps created in the traffic for their own gain. Others will commit a wide range of traffic offences right under the nose of the passing police officers, in the knowledge that they probably won’t be stopped – although sometimes the police have the last laugh and will come knocking later on!

There is a serious point to this article. Drivers should be aware of their surroundings whilst on the road and be ready to react safely and sensibly when an emergency vehicle is approaching. There is an excellent video that gives guidance on how to react to emergency vehicles:

You can follow Bobby McPeel on Twitter or go and check out his great blog!


  1. This is a two way street - forgive the pun. I have seen numerous examples of aggressive driving by operators of emergency vehicles (from the inside). I think that almost without exception the public do they're very best to get out of the way of the emergency vehicle. As in most things, whilst there is a minimum standard of driving by law, there is a variable level of experience, competence and common sense. I recognise, as we all do, the drivers described above. The best approach is to give plenty of room and time to react and they will usually do the right thing. I don't see the point of getting frustrated by it, it will always happen and the delay of getting stuck behind a panicking motorist outweighs holding back a bit and letting them sort themselves out. I have seen emergency vehicle drivers blow a gasket in frustration, gesticulating obscenely and even getting out of vehicles to berate motorists! I know this is an extreme (but true) example but I do think we need to be fully aware of our own driving and how it effects others before entirely blaming joe public.

  2. Here's the 5 minute video giving advice on how to react to blue lights (from Bobby McPeel's blog): - ie how not to be a complete numpty! Worth a watch. No mention of cyclists though. It's funny how motorists often don't consider cyclists as traffic even though we're road users too. As a cyclist, I just get off the road immediately - get off my bike & lift it onto the pavement. That way I'm stationary and the blue light driver can cross me off his or her list of vehicles to think about. And so I don't get squished by a blue light driver in a hurry!

  3. Haha this reminds me of when I still had just gotten my license, maybe a few days latter. I am truly terrified of cars and buses (got hit by two once at age 10(car) once at 14(bus), and was in a rather unpleasant car wreck as a young child, and been rear ended TWICE in a period of a year-I don't have good luck with cars). I have since gotten over most of that fear though, when I was a new driver it was stronger than ever. Any who I know I used to be a combo of The Twitcher / Stomper. I remember the first time a ambulance came blaring up behind me I freaked the heck out and swerved right of the road, slamming on the breaks. I'm pretty sure the ambulance driver was actually laughing at my horrified face as he passed me by. At least my truck was ment for off roading though so it could have been worse. So this officially cracked me up, kind of like a trip down memory lane.


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