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Home > Topics > Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Driving safely is worth 'waking up the neighborhood'

Saving minutes is not worth risk of crashing, not to mention unnecessary public criticism

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: An investigation showed city vehicles routinely run red lights, with or without emergency indicators.

Always remember how much we are in the public eye and under its scrutiny.

It seems pretty alarming that police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances routinely run stoplights while not in emergency mode. It also points out buses and other nonemergency government vehicles doing the same thing.

Some of this can be explained by the nature of the business, especially law enforcement; police don't always want to let their clients know they're coming.

I have more trouble trying to rationalize fire and EMS drivers doing the same thing. Given the number of injuries and fatalities associated with intersection collisions, it's not wise to run through red lights, even in the dead of night.

I know some EMS folks feel lights and siren at night are not necessary during emergency runs. The rationalization is not wanting to "wake up the neighborhood."

While I can empathize, I'm not sure if that argument would hold up in a lawsuit filed after a crash (why we're still speeding all the time is a column for another day).

It's vitally important to fully understand the motor vehicle laws in your state and the implications and consequences for violating them.

Recent articles have reported on EMS providers being investigated and prosecuted for willful violation of driving laws.

To me, saving a minute or two of time is not worth the risk of crashing, not to mention the unnecessary public criticism about what we do.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor 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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