A reminder to drive safely and stay alert

I want to write briefly about the crash in Jackson, Mississippi, last week between a fire truck, an ambulance, and two other vehicles that injured 10 people. Reading that story brought back really bad memories of a similar episode I experienced several years ago.

While responding to an emergency call we entered a quiet, residential intersection that was controlled on all sides by 4-way stop signs. My partner and I had been through that intersection multiple times and, since there were no cars at the intersection, we entered it at speed with lights on and siren sounding.

Halfway through the intersection I noticed a flash of light out of the corner of my eye and instinctively flinched while stomping my foot onto the accelerator. A fire engine had barreled into the intersection from the cross street at very nearly the same time we did. We missed each other literally by inches. Neither my partner nor I spoke for the next few minutes as we continued on to the call. It turned out that the engine company was going to the same call, and as we all pulled up to the scene together I could see that the crew was as shaken up as we were.

In troubleshooting the call it's clear that we did not exercise due caution when we approached the intersection. Familiarity breeds complacency, and that's not a good thing when it comes to emergency driving.

EMS vehicles are heavy and difficult to maneuver, a deadly combination. In addition, the current change in seasons signals that treacherous driving conditions are upon us. Stay safe and stay alert!

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor 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 writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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