I havent been able to find any laws in my state addressing this. We were discussing this at the dinner table tonight and 2 thoughts were presented. The first is to pull in behind the vehicles with lights and sirens still going to get the vehicles to clear the intersection and the other was to stand down on the lights and sirens untill the light turns green. If the opticom did not trigger the light in time it does present several options.
The biggest concearn with this scenario is to cause someone to panic in front of the apparatus and pull out into the intersection to get out of your way and get hit by an opposing vehicle. We order our Officers to disingage the siren and allow the traffic to move as best they can under these circumstances. We have an intersection right near our station that has this type of situation quite a bit. Even with the Opticon on we see the intersection jammed at times. Best to be safe rather then have someone get in a wreck trying to get out of your way.
Problem with trying to get vehicles to clear an intersection can create panic and can thus be a cause for an accident. If a traffic light didn't trigger with opticom, it would be better to wait for the light to change, however, I would keep the lights on at least to indicate that you are still responding. It is about operating with Due Regard, don't force vehicles out of the way. Some depts do address this in SOGs some don't, but I wouldn't be forcing drivers in a dangerous situation, especially if it is a busy intersection.
Ohhh ok, I get where you are coming from Derek. We don't respond in a town or city, so I'm not up to par on the ways to go about doing this. But, I do agree that to try and "force" your way through would create a panic situation and possibly cause an accident. I, too, would wait and keep the lights going but hold on the siren until you get going again. Main thing is to get there SAFELY.
This is a call in which everyone would do differently, so let's be honest and not BS anyone. It is dependant upon the nature of the call. Now if you are responding first due to a reported building fire, or better yet fire with people trapped, nobody is going to shut off their lights and wait for the light to turn green...
If the intersection is not controlled, (no opticom) you should provide as much pre-warning as possible, change the sequence of the siren before arrival as well, slow down to not catch the stopped cars too fast, move to the far left lane and if done cautiously, they may yield enough to pass through on the left.
Now if you are blocked, we do have the right in my state to travel against traffic, but if we get into an accident we will still be screwed for traveling against traffic. I would only perform this if the call was severe enough to demand the action. Travel would be extremely slow and caution to advanced pre-warning and eye contact with all traffic.
Now if it was a AFA without a second report of confirmation, then I would approach the intersection slow enough to hopefully allow the light to turn green and get the traffic flowing to safely yield to the right. If not, I have been known to sit in the traffic with just the lights flashing until the light turns green.
One thing to note is some operators travel too fast even with a working opticom and cause a similar situation, it is best to slow down and allow the opticom to work as designed, let the traffic flow, follow them through and then allow them to yield to the right.
Sad part is this should be part of your department's DO program and how your department expects you to respond through your specific intersections. We have newly installed round-a-bouts with narrow entrance and exit medians, therefore if you come up onto a car with lights and sirens too fast, they essentially close the road because their is not enough room to pass with the curbs. We now shut the lights and sirens off on approach, follow the car through and then turn them back on to request the cars to yield after the intersection.
I've come across this many times. We will take an opposing lane if possible, although it is not advisable. If you have an accident when in opposing traffic you will be found at fault. We are not permitted to take opposing lanes, some officers will not allow it.
As for pushing into an intersection, extreme caution. A few years ago we had someone panic, and pull into traffic, where she was broadsided and killed. You want to arrive at the incident, not be or cause the incident. If there is room for cars to move to one side or the other (a shoulder) and you can get through, I suppose it could be done. Every situation is different, every intersection will be different (car configurations) and every driver will be different. Never be the incident and use your best judgement.
It has generally been upheld by the courts that if the emergency vehicle operator "forces" a civilian driver into doing something they normally would not otherwise do, and the civilian driver collides with another vehicle or object, the operator of the emergency vehicle bears responsibility. Read your states laws carefully.
While not recommended, contra-flowing may be an option, but in addition to the oncoming traffic, the cross-traffic which is proceeding through the intersection may not be able to see the emergency vehicle due to the other vehicles stopped at the light.
The extra seconds waiting for the light to change really won't make much difference to the outcome of the "emergency" you are responding to compared to the addition of the possibility of criminal and civil charges, and the possibility of losing your career.
I agree with some other comments later...like the nature of the call...confirmed fire, people trapped type of thing. (although creating an accident doesn't help getting to the scene any better) I understand going against traffic....which we have done numerous times, yes cautious, yes due regard, etc. However, I can think of controlled intersections where there is a nice median prohibiting the ability to move over into oncoming traffic. I can recall a number of times all lanes at such intersections were occupied, sometimes people went through, sometimes not.....there is no reason to force people through.
Intersections aside....take the same report (PNB, Fire with victims trapped, etc) now place in weather conditions etc, are you still driving the same way as a nice warm summer day? I doubt it. We're not good to anyone if we don't make it on scene.