Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Blue lights and sirens are universal signals for you to slow down and pull over.
"Sometimes it can be very sketchy, very scary," said Senior Deputy Jamie Owens with the Richland County Sheriff's Department, "Sometimes we see them not even get out the way."
Owens has seen drivers panic and fail to stop and allow an emergency vehicle to pass by. Another mistake is drivers coming to a stop in the middle of the road.
"If you stop in the roadway you can be endangering other motorists, you can endanger the emergency vehicle coming by," said Owens.
That is why the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol have teamed up to let drivers know how to handle the situation.
First they say you should stay calm and slow down. Take a few moments to figure out your best option, and move over to the right when possible. Deputies say a turn lane will do as well.
Lance Corporal David Jones says it is important to be aware of what is going on around you.
"People won't even know we're behind them or they'll wait till the last second to get over and that last second could mean the difference between running into the back of a police car, striking a police officer or striking a firefighter trying to clean up an emergency scene," said Jones. He says failing to move over could lead to $230 tickets and points on your licence.
They also remind you to stop when possible and check before you continue on your way.
"If you see an emergency vehicle, one there's probably gonna be a second one so just keep that in mind before you reenter the lane of traffic. Look for the second one because sometimes there's gonna be a second one following very close," said Owens.
Officers say drivers should not try to rush and beat emergency vehicles to avoid having to follow the slow down and move over law
"If we're not able to get to the destination we're traveling to what benefit are we to the public," said Jones.
Because every second counts when they are working to ensure safety and save lives.
"We want to make sure at the end of the day no one is injured and everybody makes it home," said Owens.