Failure to yield to emergency vehicles (N.J.S.A. 39:4-91 and 39:4-92)

When you’re driving along a New Jersey roadway and you see an emergency vehicle (such as an ambulance, police car, or fire truck) with its sirens blaring, you must yield the right of way to that vehicle. Failure to do so constitutes a violation of New Jersey traffic law, and you can be ticketed for it. In this article, New Jersey traffic ticket lawyer Dan T. Matrafajlo will give you a comprehensive overview of the relevant law and its consequences.

The law: N.J.S.A. 39:4-91 and 39:4-92

N.J.S.A. 39:4-91 says that:

(1)   If you’re a driver of a vehicle on a highway, you must yield the right of way to an authorized emergency vehicle that is operating in the course of:(i) its official business; (ii) the driver’s profession; (iii) an emergency response; or (iv) the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law. The emergency vehicle will have an audible signal (such as a bell, siren, or exhaust whistle), or if it’s a police vehicle, a lighted lamp display with a red light that’s visible under normal weather conditions from at least 500 feet away.

(2)   Nevertheless, the driver of any authorized emergency vehicle must still drive with due regard for the safety of everyone, and he or she is not protected by the law for any consequences that arise out of reckless driving. Thus, this law does not make any driver of an authorized emergency vehicle immune from liability.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-92 says that when an authorized emergency vehicle with an audible signal, and equipped, is immediately approaching:

a)      The drivers of every vehicle on the road must drive as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, and out of intersections, and stop and remain there until the authorized vehicle has passed.

b)      The driver or person in control of a street car must immediately stop the car away from the intersection of the highway and keep it stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

In addition, unless on official business, no driver of any vehicle may follow an authorized emergency vehicle, that’s traveling in response to an emergency, closer than 300 feet. No driver of any vehicle may driver nearer to, or park within 200 feet of, any fire department vehicle that has stopped in response to a fire alarm.

MVC points and penalties

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) keeps track of your traffic violations by adding points to your driving record. It will add two points to your driving record for failing to yield to emergency vehicles. If you get six or more points on your record in a three-year period, you will be subject to a surcharge. For an accumulation of 12 or more points, the MVC will suspend your driver’s license.

Fines

The traffic fine for failure to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles is $85. The fine for failure to pull over for an emergency vehicle or following an emergency vehicle too closely is $85.

The municipal court may also impose additional penalties in the form of a $50-$200 fine or imprisonment in state prison for up to 15 days. The judge can also decide to suspend your driver’s license for willful violation of the law.

Insurance rates

New Jersey-licensed automobile insurers have a separate system of “insurance eligibility points” that can have an effect on your insurance rates. If you are convicted for failing to yield to emergency vehicles, you will get two points added to your record. This means that you will have to pay a higher insurance premium. If your point total meets or exceeds seven points, you will no longer be able to get auto insurance through the voluntary market. Instead, you’ll have to obtain the more expensive at-risk coverage through the New Jersey Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (NJPAIP).

 

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