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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Don't get hit: 3 principles of traffic defense

It's nice that Md. has law in place to help keep responders safe, but no piece of legislation will protect us at moment of truth

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: Baltimore police released dash cam video Thursday showing a tractor-trailer slam into a cruiser — and then hit a state trooper as he conducted a traffic stop.

In a split second, everything changes.

For this law enforcement officer, it could have been much, much worse. Thank goodness it wasn't.

Video segments like this one makes me shudder. How many times have I been out on a street call with traffic whizzing by at freeway speed?

It's nice that Md. has a law in place to help keep us safe, but no piece of legislation will provide any protection at the moment of truth.

At the end of the day, we have to do what we can to keep ourselves as safe as possible. Remember the basic principles of street defense:

  1. Park defensively. Use your vehicle as a shield. Even the brief impact of the semi with the police vehicle may have been enough to keep the truck from running over the trooper. If you can, park a little farther back from your scene to provide an even bigger buffer zone.
  2. Stay aware all the time. I know it's hard when you have patients to manage, but keeping part of your brain tuned in to what's happening around you might give you just enough time to react in case things suddenly change.
  3. Be seen. The OSHA-mandated vests may not be the sexiest things to wear, but anything to grab the attention of drivers who are otherwise distracted can help.

Near-misses are measured in fractions of a second. May none of us ever have to experience such an event on scene. Stay safe out there.

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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