Failure to Yield Right of Way to an Emergency Vehicle in New York – VTL 1144 (a)

One of the first things most student drivers are taught when learning to drive is to pull over to the right to make way for an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on. This includes police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances. A driver who has the ability to yield to an emergency vehicle but does not do so can be ticketed under VTL 1144 (a).

What Are the Penalties for Failing to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle in NY?

  • Fines: Tickets for NYS VTL 1144 (a) are more expensive than most, including other failure to yield tickets. A first offense for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle can cost up to $275. A second offense in 18 months can cost up to $450 and a third offense in 18 months can cost as much as $750.
  • Points: Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle is a 3-point offense in New York.
  • Surcharge: A driver convicted of failing to yield to an emergency vehicle in New York must pay a mandatory state surcharge in addition to the fine. The surcharge costs either $88 (in a city) or $93 (in a village or town).
  • Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee: If a conviction for VTL 1144 (a) puts the number of points on a driver’s license at 6 or more, the driver will be charged a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee. This costs $300 plus $75 for each point over six. The DRA is separate from the fine and surcharge and is paid directly to the DMV.
  • Auto insurance increase: In general, failure to yield tickets are estimated to raise rates between 9% and 15%. Although there is no data specific to failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, it is easy to assume that the seriousness of the offense and the high risk of a major accident (and insurance claim) would put this offense on the higher end of that scale.

What is the Difference Between Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle and NY’s ‘Move Over’ Law?

VTL 1144 (a) – Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle is often confused with VTL 1144-a (a) New York State’s Move Over Law. While they are related in nature, the distinction has to do with the driver’s relationship to the emergency vehicle. Failing to yield means the emergency vehicle was approaching the driver and driver did not move to the right to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. Violating the Move Over Law means the driver was approaching an emergency vehicle which was stopped on the side of the road and the driver failed to either move to the left or slow down.

Statute Violation Emergency Vehicle Is Driver Is Required to Fine Points
1144 (a) Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicle Approaching/in motion with lights & siren on Move to the right and stop $275 3
1144-a (a) NY Move Over Law Stopped on side of the road with lights on Move to the left or slow down $150 2

Defenses to VTL 1144 (a) – Failure to Yield Right of Way to an Emergency Vehicle

The conditions set forth in VTL 1144 (a) are clear and straightforward. The statute reads as follows:

Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle equipped with at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of five hundred feet to the front of such vehicle other than a police vehicle or bicycle when operated as an authorized emergency vehicle, and when audible signals are sounded from any said vehicle by siren, exhaust whistle, bell, air-horn or electronic equivalent; the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway, or to either edge of a one-way roadway three or more lanes in width, clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.

In essence, any driver that hears the siren of an emergency vehicle must pull off the right and stop until the emergency vehicle passes. This is true even if the driver cannot yet see the emergency vehicle and is uncertain of its location or the direction it is heading.

In order to beat a ticket for not yielding to an emergency vehicle, a driver must prove certain conditions were not or could not be met. For example:

  1. The emergency vehicle did not have its lights and siren activated. If neither is activated, there is no expectation that a driver makes way.
  2. It is not possible to move over. A vehicle in gridlock traffic may not be able to get close to the curb at all; however, provided the driver made some effort to get “as close as possible” then the statute was complied with.

If the facts of the case do not allow for a dismissal of the charges, then the next best bet is to plea the ticket down to a lesser charge (where possible). In many cases, a failure to yield to an emergency vehicle ticket can be reduced to a lower-fine, lower-point ticket such as disobeying a traffic control device. In addition to fewer points and a lower fine, it is also less likely to have a noticeable impact on one’s insurance premiums.

Why Hire a NY Attorney to Beat a Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle Ticket?

Drivers often think the cost of hiring an attorney would outweigh the cost of paying the ticket itself. This is a serious mistake. Firstly, the fine, surcharge, and possible DRA fee can add up to a significant amount of money—nearly $670 in total in some cases. Secondly, it is worth remembering that insurers can raise rates for as long as a ticket appears on one’s driving abstract, which in New York is around three years! An increase of as little as $150 per year means a driver will pay at least an additional $450 on top of the fine and other costs.

Another reason to hire an attorney is to save oneself a trip to the courthouse. In most basic traffic ticket cases, an attorney can appear in court in the driver’s stead. That means the driver will not have to wait in court all day to speak to the judge and/or prosecutor; the attorney can handle it all.

Lastly, an attorney is far better equipped to get a positive result than most individuals. An experienced traffic ticket attorney will know the law, the courts, the judges, and the prosecutors. He/she will be able to develop the best possible defense strategy and execute it, maximizing the chances of a reduced or dismissed ticket.

Common Questions About Failing to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle

  • Can I be ticketed for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle if the shoulder is blocked? A driver who makes an effort to pull as far to the right as possible—even if the shoulder is blocked or there is no shoulder—can be seen as complying with the law. However, a driver who makes no effort at all can be ticketed for not yielding to an emergency vehicle.
  • Are there any rules emergency vehicles have to comply with when operating with lights and sirens on?  Yes. VTL 1144 (b) states that operators of emergency vehicles must “drive with reasonable care for all persons using the highway.”
  • Can I say I didn’t pull over because I was concerned the car behind me would rear-end me? This will depend on other facts of the case, including if the driver at least slowed down, attempted to pull to the right, how much warning the driver had before the emergency vehicle passed, and any other relevant circumstances.

Who Should I Contact for Help With My Failure to Yield Right of Way to an Emergency Vehicle Ticket?

It is essential that you hire an attorney if you or someone you love has been ticketed for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or Call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.