How to become an emergency response driver

Emergency response drivers play a fundamental role in health and safety operations. The main organisations that require emergency response drivers are the Police, Ambulance and Fire services, with secondary organisations such as the National Blood Service, Coastguard Service, Lifeboat Service and Mountain and Cave Rescue service all also utilising emergency response drivers. It is also not uncommon for Military vehicle drivers, for example, those involved in wartime bomb disposal, to participate in emergency response.

Emergency response driving with the exemptions to road traffic law is a great privilege, and is extremely rewarding but ultimately a huge responsibility. Once fully qualified, driving with the use of blues and twos must continue to be considered as a privilege and not an entitlement. There are no exemptions for careless or dangerous driving.

So, how does one become an emergency response driver? Let’s find out!

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When learning to become an emergency response driver, there are several key elements that drivers will need to take into account. These are as follows:

The most immediate responsibility is to confirm license entitlements to drive the emergency response vehicle. The driver must hold a full DVLA license for the class of vehicle to be driven. Any endorsements or convictions under road traffic legislation must be reported to the appropriate persons as required. If your eyesight fails to meet the relevant legal requirements, or if there are any medical or adverse conditions that could impair your driving ability; you have a responsibility to report this to the licensing authority.

Do we feel well enough to drive? Any illness, or medications to treat them could impair driving performance. Feeling angry, tired, depressed or stressed is going to be a major handicap. Do we have a coping strategy if we have any of these feelings? Feeling hungry or thirsty can be a distraction that should be easily resolved.

When driving, we might consider that driving standards are deteriorating and that it’s other drivers that are inattentive, discourteous and inconsiderate. It is maybe worth reflecting how our own driving might be seen by others. How alert, courteous and considerate are we – honestly? How tolerant are we of the mistakes, probably quite unintentional, of others? We might feel that we have great skill controlling the vehicle and good awareness of traffic situations, but is our own behaviour always beyond reproach?

Advanced driver training promotes a positive, progressive, smooth and safe driving style. Our expectation is that new response drivers complete the prescribed driving course, not only to formally qualify as advanced drivers but also become better people. People who understand both the technical complexities of driving a vehicle and also the human factors that influence everyone’s attitude when using public roads.

Travelling inside our vehicles, often with all the comforts of home, we feel safe and comfortable. It is here that we might display behaviour we would never dream of showing when outside our vehicles. There will be demanding times when human psychology, particularly our emotions and peer pressure can be a strong influence on our decision making. This can make positive choices difficult and, therefore, may compromise safety.

For more top tips on Driver Responsibility, check out Bill Lavender’s fantastic guide!


The GDE is a framework that exists in order to teach drivers all of the knowledge and skills that they will need whilst on the road. This framework has been developed in response to years of research and experience, and is there to highlight any major gaps that are present in a driver’s knowledge and skills; so that they can improve this.

The GDE does not just test individual knowledge and skills, but it also tests the level of driver’s ability to self-evaluate themselves. For example, a driver must be able to identify when they are a personal risk to other drivers on the road, and what factors influence their own individual behaviour whilst in traffic. It’s essential that drivers understand how their own beliefs, behaviour and values can increase or decrease their chances of being involved in an accident/crash.

Laws for an emergency response driver

How to Become an Emergency Response Driver by Bill Lavender has been reviewed by the Motor Schools Association (MSA) Newslink magazine

The Goals for Driver Education (GDE) Matrix

The 4 levels that are involved in all driving tasks

Knowledge and skill

Risk-increasing factors the driver must be aware of and be able to avoid

Self-evaluation for continuous development

1. Mastery of vehicle manoeuvring(Traditional Driver Training)

The physics of driving. Skill with vehicle handling, e.g. when braking, cornering and accelerating. Risks connected with advanced vehicle technology. Distraction through smart phone use. Personal strengths and weaknesses with basic driving skills when manoeuvring in hazardous situations.

2. Mastery of traffic situations (Traditional Driver Training)

Applying ‘Highway Code’. Observation, Hazard Perception Skills and anticipation. Awareness of poor safety margins, neglect of rules, adverse driving or traffic conditions. Level of hazard perception, from a viewpoint of strengths and weaknesses.

3. Goals and context of driving for a specific journey (Driver Education & Behaviour)

Journey related considerations. Effects of goals, environment choice, effects of social pressure, evaluation of necessity. What is the purpose of the journey? What are the conditions likely to be? Who are you carrying? Any social pressures? How well has the trip been planned? What are the goals, motives, feelings and expectations?

4. Human factors. The goals for life and your skills for living (Driver Education & Behaviour)

What are your life goals and values? What’s your behavioural style and how does it affect your driving? (Can be based on age, social position /culture). Risks connected with: social environment & peer pressure to perform a particular way. Lifestyle habits that create driving risk. Awareness of personal tendencies / competence: Impulse control, motives, fatigue, stress, lifestyle and values, coping strategy.
How to become an emergency response driver


Emergency Response drivers, during routine driving or when responding to emergencies will:

  • Identify the human factors that are significant contributors to road traffic collision
  • Accept ownership for maintaining a high standard of professional driving
  • Act as a role model of professional driving standards that others should aspire to
  • Demonstrate an ability to predict and safely respond to the behavioural changes of other drivers
  • Identify situations where conflict involves the response crew and/or other road users
  • Be able to manage confrontational behaviour
  • Reflect on own driving practice during confrontational behaviour
  • Recognise “red mist” – the extreme emotional feelings that can temporarily cloud our judgment


Professional driving has to begin with good posture behind the wheel. You need to be comfortable, as well as positioned to reach and operate the controls easily. You need to have an unobstructed view of the road ahead, as well as the sides and rear of the vehicle.

Below is the updated “cockpit drill” that is recommended when driving all ambulance vehicles. There may be some minor variance within each emergency service:

1. Handbrake applied and gear lever in neutral

2. Adjust seat position to ensure reach of steering and controls, also set head restraint

3. Mirrors set for side and rear view

4. Gearbox familiarisation

5. Start vehicle

Manual – depress clutch
Automatic – depress brake.

Check all ignition lights

6. Footbrake, static check

7. Handbrake check

8. Gauges, including fuel and switch settings, check navigation

9. Seat belts on and check all doors are closed

10. Brake, mobile check – brake early for first hazard at low speed

You must be completely satisfied before driving, that your vehicle is roadworthy, so make it a habit:

  • When starting the vehicle (Point 5 above), to apply some movement to the steering as well as depressing the clutch/brake. This will check for power steering assistance
  • When making a static footbrake check, check that the brake pedal travel is not excessive or feels spongy. The pedal must not fall to the floor.

Although not always a stated feature of the PDC, you will also need to check and know the vehicle’s dimensions – height, width and length. Finally, you should also make sure that you feel fit and well enough before driving.


Once of the most important things that Emergency Response Drivers need to take into account and learn, is how to navigate correctly. To do this, here are some useful tips:

SatNav systems are relied upon to direct us accurately to the correct destination.

We run the risk of trusting our satellite navigation systems far too much, meaning that we think less for ourselves. We are driving, not the SatNav. We cannot blame this device if we have a collision or commit an offence. Destination planning should normally be done before starting to drive, checking preferences, such as whether the fastest or shortest route is best, or whether to avoid motorways or not. If the SatNav has to be re-programmed on the move, to avoid distraction, this needs to be done by the co-driver or crew member. Otherwise, pull over.

If the SatNav is fixed to the window, it should be in the driver’s line of sight, but must not block the view of the road. We don’t want to have to look down or turn the head too much.

Because there is always some risk of the navigation system failing, response drivers, and co-drivers need to have map reading skills. A hard copy map of the local area or regional road atlas needs to be kept in the vehicle. SatNav devices need regular updates for new roads or traffic systems.

Various mobile apps may also be useful tools to assist directional information; however these can only be operated by the co-driver or another crew member, and again, may have limitations. No electronic system, or hard copy can be expected always to be fully up to date or perfect, so be ready to deal with errors.


1. Use navigational aids safely during routine driving and when responding to emergency calls.

2. Overcome any limitations of navigation aids, including Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) system.

3. Use navigational aids safely to assist in routine driving and an emergency response.

4. Give directional information to the driver.

5. Take directional information from the co-driver or another crew member.

6. Manage distractions from within the vehicle during routine driving and when responding to emergency calls.


For the professional driver, things do not just happen. With adequate concentration and proper observation, there’s normally enough time to recognise a danger and respond early and appropriately. Nothing on the road ever happens ‘suddenly’.
The majority of driving situations are predictable and can be read. The observation links and clues are there for the driver who is planning ahead.

Driving plans are a ‘must’. Everything in this chapter is a consideration that contributes towards your driving plan(s). The essential parts of the planning process involve:

  • Hazard Perception – Anticipating actual or potential danger
  • Prioritising those hazards presenting the greatest risk
  • Deciding what to do

Hazard perception, awareness and anticipation
Hazard perception is an important part of learning to drive. To achieve a mastery of traffic situations response, drivers need to be ready for all developing hazards, throughout the journey. Awareness and anticipation improve with driving experience and the amount of effort you put into improving it.

A very common example is driving behind the vehicle in front, particularly if it is a heavy goods vehicle. By dropping back two or three vehicle lengths, not only will the view be increased, but the overall stopping distance will be improved.
Deciding what to do in any situation is the main feature of any driving plan. Decisions can be drawn from the predictability of other road users’ behaviour.

Typically, a driving plan needs to take into account all that can be seen in front, to the sides and behind. A ‘Plan B’ may be needed that includes contingencies for dealing with both ‘b’ and ‘c’ above – what can’t be seen, but what might reasonably be expected to happen.

A good driving plan will keep you:

1. In the correct road position

2. Travelling at the correct speed

3. With the correct gear selected

Keep asking yourself what you will do if things change. Constantly, that is every three to five seconds, update the information. Your driving instructor will show you how to put the changing information into a driving plan using “The System of Vehicle Control”, often affectionately known as “The System”.

For more information about Driving Plans, ‘The System’ and vehicle control, pick up a copy of Bill Lavender’s fantastic Emergency Response Driver Handbook!

How To Become An Emergency Response Driver Download
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How to Become an Emergency Response Driver

  • A comprehensive explanation of “The System” and Goals for Driver Education.
  • Essential advice on personal development and improve your individual driving skills.
  • A complete list of hazards, danger signs and things to be careful of, when working as an emergency response driver.
  • An outstanding overview of the emergency response driver training programme, and the core requirements and expectations of any trainee driver.
  • How to get emergency response driver jobs.
  • Top Tips on Driving Plans, and why they are essential for emergency response driver!

Additional resources included within the download guide.

The ULTIMATE clear and simple guide for anyone who wants to become an emergency response driver.

This emergency response driver download guide includes:

A definitive overview of the emergency response driver role;

  • Dealing with both non-emergency and emergency situations;
  • How to check and use emergency response vehicle operating systems;
  • The Skills, knowledge and understanding required for ALL practical and
    theoretical elements of high-speed driving;
  • A unique approach that can lead you to join an emergency response team;
  • Learn the emergency response driver training and pass;
  • And, plenty more invaluable insider advice.
Steps to becoming an emergency response driver

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How To Become An Emergency Response Driver Download

How To Become An Emergency Response Driver Download

✓ Learn ALL of the practical and theory of high-speed driving with full illustrations;
✓ A definitive overview of the emergency response driver role;
✓ How to check and use emergency response vehicle operating systems;
✓ Learn how to deal with both an emergency and non-emergency situation;
✓ Use a unique approach to joining an emergency response team;
✓ Learn what it takes to pass the emergency response driver training;
✓ And, plenty more invaluable insider advice from Bill Lavender BA (Hons) Cert Ed, Author and Driver Trainer.
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