Frequently asked questions

Find out the answers to the most commonly asked questions on ESDS.

What is ESDS?

ESDS stands for Emergency Services Driving Standard – a driving standard for emergency services drivers.

Why is ESDS being introduced?

Creating a culture of safe and responsible driving is essential for reducing deaths and casualties on Irish roads. Emergency services drivers should understand that their presence on the roads has an impact on other road users so they need to act responsibly at all times.

The Emergency Services Driving Standard aims to develop and sustain a spirit of cooperation, caution and courtesy in emergency service drivers. Emergency service drivers should aim to achieve an excellent standard of driving that acts as an example to other road users. This was also identified as a key action point for delivery  under the Government Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020.

The main aim of this driving standard is to benefit emergency services drivers and other road users by:

  • reducing the particular risks associated with the driving of emergency
    service vehicles,
  • making sure that patients and passengers are safe and comfortable, and
  • cultivating the attitude that responding to an emergency should never
    involve actions which could lead to the death or injury of any person.

When was ESDS introduced?

ESDS came into effect from February 2015.

What are the benefits of ESDS?

It improves the driver’s:

  • awareness of the need to share the road in a safe way (while showing due
    care for themselves and other road users);
  • attitude to risk;
  • willingness to accept responsibility;
  • ability to take precautions;
  • ability to choose ways of driving that reduces the risk of collisions or incidents;
  • awareness of the need for responsible emergency services driver behaviour;
  • knowledge of legal requirements and regulations in relation to emergency service vehicles and how they impact on individual organisations; and
  • awareness of the reasons for the regulations that affect them.

Who is overseeing the introduction of ESDS?

The RSA is overseeing ESDS. A working panel was set up with members drawn from:

  • The RSA
  • Civil Defence
  • The Irish Coast Guard
  • The Defence Forces
  • An Garda Síochána
  • Health Service Executive National Ambulance Service
  • The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council
  • The Chief Fire Officer’s Association
  • The Irish Prison Service
  • National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management

As the oversight body of ESDS, the RSA is responsible for the certification of ESDS drivers, trainers and ESDS assessors in order to ensure that they meet the required standard.


What is the standard of ESDS?

The Emergency Services Driving Standards are incrementally at a high level, and focus on the following areas of driver competence:

  • Knowledge – driving laws, rules and vehicle operation;
  • Control of the vehicle;
  • Control in traffic situations;
  • Recognising, managing and avoiding risks;
  • Driving professionally; and
  • Emergency Response Driving (Level 3 only).

I passed a driving test and have a full licence – is the lowest level of ESDS higher than  this?

Yes, the Emergency Services Driving Standard is a particular high-level standard, and focuses on particular areas of driver competence.

Is there any alternative equivalent to ESDS?

No. The ESDS is the RSA recognised standard which has been developed for Emergency Service Drivers in Ireland.

Who is involved with ESDS and who does it apply to?

Phase 1 of the ESDS initiative only includes the following organisations:

  • Civil Defence
  • The Irish Coast Guard
  • The Defence Forces
  • An Garda Síochána
  • Health Service Executive National Ambulance Service
  • The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council
  • The Chief Fire Officer’s Association
  • The Irish Prison Service
  • National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management

It is a matter for each organisation to identify their own requirements in relation to the nomination of drivers for ESDS. Phase two of the ESDS initiative facilitates nominations from the Private/Voluntary Emergency Service Organisations. 

Can an organisation get overall ESDS Certification to cover all their drivers?

No, each organisation must apply on behalf of their  drivers for the theoretical assessment and practical assessment.

Is ESDS available outside of emergency organisations?

ESDS assessments are offered to drivers who are put forward by the Emergency Service Provider they work or Voluntary for.

What is the structure of ESDS and are there different levels of ESDS?

The Emergency Services Driving Standard (ESDS) has three levels:

ESDS Level 1

This is the entry level and sets out the training, learning and assessment that will produce competent and responsible emergency service drivers.

ESDS Level 2

Describes the training, learning and assessment for emergency service drivers and includes the principles and skills set of ‘Roadcraft’. ‘Roadcraft’ is a recognised system of vehicle control in the training for emergency service drivers that develops a methodical and systematic approach to driving. It increases safety by giving the driver more time to react in complex situations as they have a greater awareness and ability to anticipate hazards.

ESDS Level 3

This level refers only to services who by law can drive using blue lights and sirens in emergency response situations when this does not endanger the safety of other road users. An example of this is when an emergency services vehicle exceeds the statutory speed limit. This applies only to emergency services who are specified in Section 87 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 as follows:

  • An Garda Síochána,
  • Ambulance Services
  • Fire Services

This level sets out a series of principles and response tactics which are compatible with Roadcraft and focus on the driver’s attitude towards emergency response driving.
Creating correct behaviour and a responsible attitude to driving skills greatly reduces the risks associated with emergency response driving. The standards will ensure that drivers fully understand their responsibility to manage the risks associated with emergency response driving and, in doing so, they will help to keep themselves and the public safe.

I already have emergency driving experience – does this count?

Having previous Emergency Driving experince will help however, all drivers wishing to attain ESDS certification must successfully complete assessments (practical and theory assessments) in the relevant level and category.

You must also be nominated for ESDS certification by your emergency service organisation.

Is there any training requirement?

Drivers that avail of training will be more likely to obtain ESDS certification than those who do not avail of training.

The ESDS syllabus publication outlines how ESDS Trainers may deliver effective and appropriate training at each level. It is underpinned by the ESDS Guidance Manual and ESDS Competence Framework. Each emergency service organisation will determine the required training for their nominated personnel.


What types of vehicles does ESDS cover?

ESDS applies to the following vehicle categories in all emergency service organisations:

Vehicle Category

B Category B BE Category BE
C Category C C1 Category C1
D Category D D1 Category D1
CE Category CE C1E Category C1E
DE Category DE D1E Category D1E
W Category W

Can any person attain ESDS certification?

ESDS Assessments are offered to drivers who are put forward by the Emergency Service provider they work or voluntary for. 

Only drivers eligible to avail of legal exemptions under the Road Traffic Act can undertake ESDS Level 3 training and assessment.


What do I have to do to become an ESDS certified Driver?

ESDS Assessments are offered to drivers who are put forward by the Emergency Service provider they work or voluntary for.

If you are being put forward for ESDS, your emergency services organisation may arrange ESDS training for you. Your organisation will apply to the ESDS unit in the RSA for an ESDS theory test and assessment. You must pass the theory test and assessment in order to receive certification as an ESDS driver. You will be certified in the appropriate ESDS level and vehicle category.


Do I need to hold a driving licence to become an ESDS driver?

Yes, as ESDS is a driving standard, an ESDS driver must hold a full driving licence in the relevant vehicle category.


What will training involve?

The ESDS Syllabus  publications describes how ESDS Trainers may deliver effective and appropriate training at each level. It is underpinned by the ESDS Competence Framework and the ESDS Guidance Manual. Throughout the ESDS process, trainees will be encouraged to reflect on and assess all aspects of their own driving. This will make them more aware of how they drive. It will involve:

  • examining what they have been doing,
  • why they have been doing it (or not doing it), and
  • determining what they need to do to become a safe and responsible emergency service driver.

Trainees will be encouraged to take the time to carry out self-assessment and self-reflection. This helps them to remember what they’ve learned which, in turn, helps the trainer to deliver the training programme.


Does ESDS give me a qualification?

On passing the theory test and practical assessment, drivers are certified as an ESDS driver by the Road Safety Authority at the relevant ESDS level and vehicle category – this certification is recorded by their parent organisation and with the RSA.


What does an ESDS assessment entail?

The assessment consists of a theoretical and practical examination. The practical driving assessment will be carried out by registered ESDS assessors. The assessment aims to ensure that the knowledge, skills and understanding at the level in question has been achieved. 

Where can I find out more information on ESDS?

The following ESDS related publications are available :

  • ESDS Information Booklet
  • ESDS Guidance Manual 
  • ESDS Competence Framework
  • ESDS Syllabus
  • ESDS Tactical Response Guidelines
  • ESDS Standard Operating Procedures and Marking Guidelines
  • ESDS Trainers Handbook
  • ESDS Drivers Guide
  • ESDS Theory Test Information

The following documents will also be useful:

  • Rules of the Road – Current Edition
  • Roadcraft – Current Edition
  • Relevant Road Traffic Legislation

I work for an Emergency Services Organisation and I have completed a (Blue Light) driving course in Great Britain. Can I have this qualification recognised by the RSA?

There is no recognition of prior qualifications in respect of ESDS.  It will be necessary for the candidate to sit the relevant ESDS theory test and ESDS practical assessment.

I am member of a Voluntary (or Private) Emergency Services Organisation, how do I apply to go and get ESDS Certification?

ESDS is applicable only to Emergency Service Organisations that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Road Safety Authority.  Drivers must be nominated by the Emergency Service Organisation for assessment. The Standard will be assessed through: a) Theory Test and b) Practical Driving Assessment.

How do I get information on the computer based ESDS Theory Test Questions?

The ESDS Theory Test Information booklet is available on the RSA/ESDS website. It explains the structure of ESDS together with sample ESDS theory test questions.
The purpose of the category specific ESDS Theory Tests is to check knowledge of the skills and theory within the ESDS Publications and reference material.

Is there a particular piece of Irish legislation that specifies which organisations may avail of exemptions for emergency vehicles?

Section 23 Road Traffic Act 2014 – Amendment to Section 87 of RTA 2010.

How can I contact the ESDS Unit in the RSA?