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  • Writer's pictureRichard Hornsey

Blue Light Aware

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Hi everyone. I'm Richard Hornsey and I've been working as an ADI since June this year. My background is that I spent 30 years in Sussex Police, a majority of it as a Roads Policing Sergeant I had variety of roles, some front line operational, then Forensic and Serious Collision Investigation and finally Casualty Reduction. I held a Class one advanced permit for cars and motorcycles. I have also been a RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) examiner for cars, motorcycles, and goods vehicles for over 10 years I am an examiner for the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) where I observed blue light response courses of the Fire and Rescue services at major airports around the UK. I've always enjoyed driving and riding, so becoming an ADI seemed a natural thing for me to work towards as my Police career was coming to a close.


I'm finding that there are many similarities between my old career and my new one. It's about helping people by responding to their needs and giving them the correct advice about how to achieve some goal, in this case, passing their driving test. It isn't always easy, and some people need more help / support / guidance than others.


Another similarity is the camaraderie that I have found with #TeamSussex and I must thank Peter Ray for the work that he has put in developing that professional network. I had no idea how I would get on and, I suppose, assumed that if I wasn't working for a franchise, I'd be a bit of a "one man band" trying to do the right thing and learning as I went. TeamSussex has been a fantastic resource where I could ask questions, learn from the discussions on the WhatsApp chats and network with other instructors. The fact that the team at Burgess Hill MPTC are also accessible and approachable has also been really useful.


Peter has asked me to contribute to the website and I thought that my first article should be something that linked my old career to my new one, so I thought about "Blue Light Aware". Some of you may be aware of this and some of you may not. This is an information resource that explains to people what they should do if an emergency services vehicle is responding to a call, and they find themselves getting involved with it. There is a link at the bottom of this article that will take you to the website where there is a 4-minute YouTube video and other short clips.


Years ago, a lot of the response work was about getting somewhere as fast as possible. Clearly, we want the emergency services to arrive quickly if we've called them but not at any cost to the public or themselves. "Drive to Arrive" was a slogan that was used as well as "Double is trouble" (i.e., exceeding the speed limit significantly couldn't be justified in most situations).


Advanced driver training became far more risk aware and one of these Blue Light Aware videos highlights that. In times gone by, if I had been on an emergency response call in my Volvo 850 T5 or Cavalier Turbo (that dates me, doesn't it..?!) and had blues and two's turned on and came up behind a vehicle in a double white line system, if I could see it was clear, I'd have overtaken it. You may expect that is what would happen now and could advise your student to slow down to assist the emergency services vehicle to pass you. The issue is that the current guidance to the emergency services driver is to NOT overtake on solid white lines. They should switch off the two tones so as not to aggravate the situation and sit behind your vehicle until you leave the double white line section. They want you to keep going at an appropriate speed and as you reach the broken lines, they should turn their equipment back on and make progress. You could ease off or stop at that point if it assists them.


Another common one is traffic lights. On the whole, most people try to be helpful but driving through a red traffic light to make room for the emergency services vehicle is neither expected or desired. The emergency services driver will be planning their route through the hazard, and they do not expect anyone to contravene stop lines and red traffic lights or drive their expensive diamond cut alloy wheels up kerbs to facilitate their progress. This is particularly relevant to the Fire and Rescue Service in their larger vehicles. If they cannot get through to the junction, they may turn everything off so people don't feel pressurised to commit offences and they'll turn the equipment back on when the first few cars have been able to move forward at a green light as there will then be more space for them to navigate.


One of the riskiest times was when we were responding in two or more vehicles and a car had pulled over to let the first response vehicle past. Invariably, that car would pull back out again almost straight away without realising that another response vehicle was approaching so always get your student to check properly. Consider lowering the window slightly as this might help them to hear any further sirens approaching. Emergency responders are taught to use different tones based on what the first vehicle is using at the time to try and differentiate and let other road users know that a second vehicle is coming. If the first vehicle two tones are set to "Yelp", which is the short tones, the vehicle behind should be set to "Wail", the long tones. You might be unlucky and find yourself in a situation where two emergency services vehicles arrive at your location but are not connected in any way and are not working together as they are travelling to different incidents!


On dual carriageways or motorways, audible warning instruments are not very effective, and lights offer far more benefit. I always got the best results on these roads with a well-timed headlight flash to get the attention of drivers ahead, often when approaching large road signs; the illumination of these was picked up by the driver as they were looking forwards, which then made them check their mirrors to see what was coming up behind them.


I hope that this has been useful and here is the link to the visual resources...



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