Navigating the roads safely is a shared responsibility for all drivers. One crucial aspect of this is understanding how to react when an emergency vehicle is approaching. In New Jersey, the laws that govern these situations are defined under New Jersey Revised Statutes, specifically Sections 39:4-91 and 39:4-92. These statutes lay down the rules for yielding the right-of-way to authorized emergency vehicles, as well as the responsibilities of drivers in such scenarios. Understanding these rules is not just a legal obligation but is vital for the safety of everyone on the road.

Statute 39:4-91: Right Of Way Concerning Emergency Vehicles And The Drivers’ Liability

Section 39:4-91 focuses on the duty of drivers to give the right-of-way to authorized emergency vehicles when they are responding to an emergency or on official duty or business. It clearly outlines that a driver on a highway must yield to any authorized emergency vehicle that:

  1. Is in operation for official business, including responding to a call of an emergency or while pursuing law violators.
  2. Is giving an audible signal by means of a siren, bell, or whistle from the exhaust.
  3. Has at least one lighted lamp displaying a red light visible from at least 500 feet in front of the vehicle.

It is essential to note that while the driver of an emergency vehicle has the right-of-way under these circumstances, the statute also states that the emergency vehicle driver must exercise due care for the safety of all persons on the road. The driver will not be shielded from the consequences of reckless driving that disregards the safety of others.

Statute 39:4-92: Guidelines For Other Drivers When An Emergency Vehicle Approaches

Section 39:4-92 focuses on the actions other drivers must take when an authorized emergency vehicle approaches. When such a vehicle is approaching and has the required equipment as mentioned in 39:4-91, the driver of any other vehicle must:

  1. Immediately move their vehicle as near as possible and parallel to the edge or right-hand curb of the road, making sure to clear any intersections.
  2. Stop and stay in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.

For street cars, the rules are similar. The person in control of the street car must immediately stop it, ensuring it is clear of any intersections, and keep it stationary until the emergency vehicle has passed.

The statute also specifies that no driver, unless on official business, should follow an emergency vehicle closer than 300 feet or park within 200 feet of where any fire device or apparatus has halted in response to an emergency or fire alarm.


In New Jersey, failure to yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles is punishable by an $86 fine and two points on your driver’s license.

Potential Defenses To New Jersey Statutes 39:4-91 And 39:4-92

No Audible Signal Or Visible Light

39:4-91 specifies that an authorized emergency vehicle must have an audible sound and visible lights. If the emergency vehicle didn’t meet these conditions, one might argue that the statute’s requirements were not fulfilled, thus providing a defense against the charge.

The Driver Exercised Due Care

While 39:4-91 focuses on yielding to emergency vehicles, it also emphasizes that the driver of the emergency vehicle must operate the vehicle with due caution and regard for the safety of all people. If the driver of the emergency vehicle was recklessly disregarding safety, and you took actions that were in the interest of safety, this could be considered in your defense.

Emergency Vehicle Was Not On Official Business

Both statutes specify that the emergency vehicle must be on official duty or business or responding to an emergency call. If it can be proven that the vehicle was not on official duty, this could serve as a potential defense against a charge under these statutes.

Compliance With Police Or Traffic Officer Directions

39:4-92 states that drivers should yield and move to the side “unless otherwise ordered by a traffic or police officer.” If a police or traffic officer directed you differently at the time of the incident, this could be used as a defense.

No Clear Opportunity To Yield

Under 39:4-92, a driver is expected to pull over to “a position as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway, clear of an intersection of highways.” If it was unsafe or impractical to do so, perhaps due to road conditions or traffic congestion, this might be argued as a mitigating factor in your defense.

Street Cars And Specific Circumstances

For operators of street cars, 39:4-92 requires them to stop “clear of an intersection of highways.” If it was unsafe or not feasible for the street car to stop clear of an intersection, this could be an element in a defense strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions About 39:4-91-92: Failure To Yield To Emergency Vehicles

What Constitutes An “Authorized Emergency Vehicle” In New Jersey?

An authorized-emergency-vehicle is a motor vehicle that is on official business, responding to a call that is an emergency, or pursuing someone that has broken the law. The vehicle must give an audible signal and display at least one lighted red lamp.

Do I Have To Pull Over For An Unmarked Police Car?

As per 39:4-91, the key factors are the audible signal and the red light. If an unmarked police car meets these requirements, you are legally obligated to yield.

What Should I Do If I Am In An Intersection?

According to 39:4-92, you should move your vehicle as close as possible and parallel to the right-hand curb or edge, free of an intersection, and then stop and stay there until the emergency motor vehicle has passed.

Can I Follow An Emergency Vehicle Once It Passes Me?

No, unless you’re on official business, you should not follow an emergency vehicle closer than 300 feet or park within 200 feet of where a fire apparatus has stopped.

What If A Police Officer Gives Me Different Directions?

Section 39:4-92 specifies that the rules may be overridden if you are “otherwise ordered by a traffic or police officer.” In such cases, follow the officer’s instructions.

What Happens If The Emergency Vehicle Doesn’t Have A Visible Red Light Or Audible Signal?

According to 39:4-91, failure to meet these requirements might provide you with a basis for defense if you are charged with failure to yield.

Are Street Cars Subject To These Laws?

Yes, the person or driver in control of a street car has to stop clear of any intersection and keep it stationary until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, as per 39:4-92.

Failure To Yield Attorney

If you find yourself charged with failure to yield to an emergency vehicle under New Jersey Statutes 39:4-91 or 39:4-92, legal expertise can make all the difference in your case. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our team of traffic ticket lawyers is well-versed in these specific laws and can help you through the legal process. Don’t hesitate; your best defense starts with the right legal counsel. Contact us today at (855) 933-3761 or online to discuss your options and build a robust defense.

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