We’ve all been in that situation on Malaysian roads, we hear sirens and see red flashing lights indicating an ambulance is wanting to pass or cross an intersection. But, do ambulances in Malaysia have automatic right of way, and what happens if an ambulance is involved in an accident with a private vehicle?

An incident in Sungai Siput, Perak, involving an ambulance and a private vehicle, was reported by Kosmo, where the ambulance, running a red light through an intersection, collided with a car that was turning right on green. A screen capture of the accident showed the car turning right was well into the turn when the ambulance going straight ahead was unable to take evasive action or stop in time.

A check with paultan.org‘s source in the Malaysian police Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department (JSPT) indicated while ambulances have priority in traffic, it does not give them overriding right of way, nor can they ignore road rules and signals such as traffic lights as and when they like. “The ambulance driver must first ensure conditions are safe before taking emergency action such as running through a red light or making an emergency u-turn,” says our source.

“This means the driver must ensure the road is clear and traffic is aware of the presence of the ambulance,” our source said. Moreover, ambulance drivers are not allowed to activate the lights and siren as they like, explained our source, but only during an emergency call and then only when necessary to warn traffic an ambulance is approaching, prepare to slow down and give way, allowing the ambulance to pass.

In the case of an accident between a private vehicle and an ambulance, or any other government vehicle, a police report must be made by both drivers and the matter will pass to JSPT for investigation. The JSPT Accident Investigation Officer (AIO) will examine the circumstances of the accident, or extenuating factors, and determination of cause and fault.

The investigation report will then be forwarded to the courts to determine what penalty is to be served or compensation made. As you can imagine, the legal process takes a long time and is best left to your insurance company’s legal department and/or your personal lawyer should you engage the services of one.

However, in the case of a private ambulance service, the service is required to have its own insurance coverage and thus any such incidents become a matter for the respective insurance companies to handle, with the AIO only determining cause of accident and fault. Nevertheless, as drivers and riders in Malaysia we should always be aware of road surroundings and traffic, and be prepared to give way to emergency vehicles on official duty.