What to do when encountering an emergency vehicle in a roundabout

MARQUETTE — Over the last decade, around a dozen roundabouts have been built or are planned to be built in Marquette County, and there is still a learning curve about what to do when driving through them. The Marquette City Fire Department wants to remind the public of what to do if they encounter an emergency vehicle while in a roundabout.

Most of the time when an emergency vehicle approaches drivers, whether it is a police or fire truck, they move over to the right side of the road, but that’s not what should be done in a roundabout.

“If you’re in the roundabout already and an emergency vehicle is approaching, we want you to continue through the roundabout,” said Captain Jeff Green of the Marquette City Fire Department. “Until you’re through the roundabout, then find a safe way to move to your right and stop and allow that emergency vehicle to pass you. If you haven’t entered the roundabout and there’s an emergency vehicle approaching, other than in the lane and direction that you are in, we don’t want you to enter the roundabout.”

The only time that a driver should stop while in the roundabout is if they see an emergency vehicle approaching from a different direction, and they can safely come to a stop before crossing the path the emergency vehicle. Green said the drivers of the emergency vehicles won’t normally pass on the right side of a vehicle because that’s the direction most drivers will go to get out of the way.

This diagram, created for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, has been shared by the Marquette City Fire Department because it helps show what drivers should do when encountering an emergency vehicle in a roundabout.

And now with the opening of the new hospital, drivers should expect to see more occurrences of emergency vehicles going through the roundabouts on the highway.

“With the new hospital being open, obviously that second roundabout is going to see a lot more traffic, especially heading or merging north into the hospital property than what has been in the past,” said Green. “Because that’s a main route for the ambulances, there will definitely be more emergency traffic heading in that direction, so you’ll have to have a little more heightened awareness in that area.”

Currently there are two roundabouts being built on US-41 in Marquette Township, and while there are some that criticize them, Green says they’ve greatly helped in reducing serious and fatal accidents in the area.

“Even though roundabouts are somewhat new to the area, and not everyone is a fan of having the roundabouts here, throughout my career I’ve seen a significant reduction in major accidents that happen in those intersections that have roundabouts,” Green said. “We’ve had an awful lot of fatal accidents in those intersections before they were turned into roundabouts. Now what we’re experiencing in those areas are fender benders or minor accidents, slow-speed impacts. So there’s a definite benefit to having those.”