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There's always someone who wonders why the Police have just gone past over the speed limit with no lights or sirens.

So I figured it would be a good idea, in a bid to avoid numerous threads asking the same questions, to start this Wiki and have asked mods if it could be made sticky.

If the Bib would like to pop in the official lines it would be a useful tool. I'll start with a few cut and paste quotes which you are welcome to edit.

The BiB line:

The speed limits can be 'ignored' if to adhere to them would hinder the use of the vehicle for a police purpose. Police officers in marked cars on duty have been given speeding tickets and paid them when shown to not be legally using the exemption.

There is no requirement to use blue lights and sirens to take advantage of exemptions. As such no laws have been broken.

They shouldn't be travelling dangerously at any time.

There is no requirement for them to have warning lights or horns on in order to avail themselves of the exemption. It is a decision for the driver on whether they consider it appropriate or not in the individual circumstances.

Some times they'll use them because they deem it appropriate, some times they won't because they deem that most appropriate. There is nothing in law that requires them to ever use blue lights & two tones, it's down to their discretion.

If I don't want to alert the burglar in a house, I won't use them.

If I want to catch up with a car I want observe without alerting them, I won't use them.

Putting the blue lights on doesn't validate the use of the exemption it's the purpose that does.

If an officer wants a thrill & drives quickly, putting the blue lights on doesn't make what he is doing right.

If an officer is going to a burglary & doesn't use blue lights, that doesn't make what he is doing wrong.

The purpose defines whether the use of the exemption was appropriate in each case, not the use (or lack of) of blue lights.

In poor weather, especially at night, blue lights can be a distraction. I only use them at junctions and hazards but not on straight main roads in these circumstances.

The law says that the vehicle must be being used for police purposes. Therefore it does not have to be:
a, Driven by a police officer
b, A police vehicle.
A commandeered taxi would be a good example - however it would have be driven by a fully trained police driver. NO. As long as the vehicle is being used 'for police purposes' whether or not the driver is a police officer is immaterial.

By virtue of Section 87 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (as amended by Section 19 Road Safety Act 2006),

(1) No statutory provision imposing a speed limit on motor vehicles shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when–

(a) it is being used for fire and rescue authority purposes or for or in connection with the exercise of any function of a relevant authority as defined in section 6 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, for Ambulance purposes or for Police or Serious Organised Crime Agency purposes,(b) it is being used for other prescribed purposes in such circumstances as may be prescribed, or
(c) it is being used for training persons to drive vehicles for use for any of the purposes mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above, if the observance of that provision would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose for which it was being used on that occasion.

A police driver is able to make use of their exemptions at any time and for any length so long as they are able to justify their use. The justification for their use rests solely with the driver and if a legal dispute ever arose it would for the courts to decide whether or not the justification was appropriate. A police driver is still liable to be prosecuted for any road traffic offence outside of their exemptions if their driving falls below the standard expected. This is even if they are making legitimate use of exemption, for example when legitimatley negotiating a red traffic light junction on route to a call with bluea and twos, if the police car is not driven through at speed and without treating the red light as a "give way", the driver may be liable to a Sec 2 or Sec 3 traffic offence.

28 Sept 2009
The exemptions mentioned above will be amended by the folloiwng section contained in the Road Safety Act 2006 which is awaiting full commencement Order to implement

19 Exemptions from speed limits

For section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) (exemption of fire, ambulance and police vehicles from speed limits) substitute—

“87 Exemptions from speed limits (1) No statutory provision imposing a speed limit on motor vehicles shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when—

(a) it is being used for fire and rescue authority purposes or for or in connection with the exercise of any function of a relevant authority as defined in section 6 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, for ambulance purposes or for police or Serious Organised Crime Agency purposes,

(b) it is being used for other prescribed purposes in such circumstances as may be prescribed, or

(c) it is being used for training persons to drive vehicles for use for any of the purposes mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above,

if the observance of that provision would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose for which it is being used on that occasion.

(2) Subsection (1) above does not apply unless the vehicle is being driven by a person who—

(a) has satisfactorily completed a course of training in the driving of vehicles at high speed provided in accordance with regulations under this section, or

(b) is driving the vehicle as part of such a course.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about courses of training in the driving of vehicles at high speed.

(4) The regulations may include—
(a) provision about the nature of courses,
(b) provision for the approval by the Secretary of State of persons providing courses or giving instruction on courses and the withdrawal of approvals (including provision for appeals against refusal and withdrawal of approvals),
(c) provision specifying the maximum fees that a person may be required to pay for a course,
(d) provision for the training or assessment, or the supervision of the training or assessment, of persons providing courses or giving instruction on courses,
(e) provision for the evidencing of the successful completion of courses,
(f) provision authorising the Secretary of State to make available information about persons providing courses or giving instruction on courses, and
(g) provision treating courses of training in the driving of vehicles at high speed which have been completed before the coming into force of the regulations as if they had been provided in accordance with the regulations.

(5) The regulations may include provision for the charging of reasonable fees in respect of any function conferred or imposed on the Secretary of State by the regulations.
(6) The regulations may make different provision—
(a) for different classes of vehicle,
(b) for different descriptions of persons, or
(c) otherwise for different circumstances.”
(dvd)

Finally, ambulances & Fire Appliances cannot claim an exemption to cross solid white lines, even when on emergency drives. They can only cross solid white lines in the same way as every other road user, as per the highway code.

Ambulance drivers can claim the following exemptions:

Using audible and visible warning devices.
Exceeding statutory speed restrictions.
Treating a red traffic signal as a ‘give way’.
Passing either side of a ‘keep left/right’ sign.
Entering a pedestrian area.
Stopping on a clearway.
Parking on double yellow lines.
Parking on zig zag lines.
Parking on footway/central reservation.
Parking on offside of road after dark.
Showing a white floodlight to the rear of a stationary vehicle.
Driving and parking on the hard shoulder of a motorway.
Using restricted motorway access roads.
Leaving the engine of an unattended vehicle running.

An ambulance driver cannot claim exemptions to the following laws/rules:

Dangerous/careless driving/parking.
Failing to stop after an accident.
Overtaking on zig zags.
Failing to obey a red light on traffic signals controlling a level crossing/airfield/fire stations.
Failing to obey a one way sign/no right or no left turn/one way traffic sign.
Crossing or straddling a solid white line (except as stated in the highway code for all road users).

This video is useful to know what to do when blue lights approach you from behind.