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Home > Topics > Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles
July 07, 2011
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Educate your community about distracted driving

By Arthur Hsieh

Responders in Oklahoma said in a recent news story that the problem of inattentive drivers has steadily gotten worse with improved soundproofing in cars and increased cellphone use.

To EMS1 readers: Feel free to copy this and pass it out to your community. Well, maybe check with your department, but a little public education can be pretty cheap, and it may be helpful!

Dear Member of the driving public:

This is your friendly neighborhood public safety provider. In your regular driving day, you may see or hear us as we perform our duties. The vast majority of the time, you have been terrific at following the rules of the road by pulling over to the right and stopping when it's safe to do so. We sincerely appreciate that.

But there are times when this doesn't happen.

We understand that there are many reasons for this. Cars are really much more quiet now. Music systems are much louder. You can be distracted by squabbling kids, ringing cell phones, text messages, or you are thinking about that next meeting. There can be glare on your windshield, it might be raining or snowing.

Really, a lot of things can happen that keeps you from noticing us when we approach with our lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Unfortunately there are really bad consequences if you don't clear the roadway. Most important, if we crash, the chance of one of us being killed or seriously injured is much higher than just hitting another vehicle.

We drive much bigger vehicles, like ambulances and fire trucks that weigh much more than yours and generally move much faster normal traffic.

Second, in certain circumstances, every minute we save by moving quickly to an incident can make a tremendous difference. We wouldn't know that until we got there; that's why many times we travel in the emergency mode only to carefully and gently transport a patient to a hospital. But because we don't know, it's important that you provide the right of way to allow us to pass.

Third, in most states, it's the law. In fact, you can be cited for a moving violation if your neighborhood police officer sees you failing to yield. It's pretty expensive too.

So, when you see us coming, use common sense and pay attention to the law. Pull to your RIGHT (not left – don't stop in the middle of the road) and STOP (not crawl, not speed up, not cut right in behind us as we pass) when it is SAFE. Our job is to protect you and your loved ones, not hurt you.

Have a nice day.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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