To the Right, To the Right, To the Right…Yup, these are some of the words to the Cupid Shuffle. You know, that dance song that attracts all the women at weddings and the occasional male showing off (he probably hangs out at lady’s night too much).
For the purpose of this blog entry, “To the Right” is the message I want to pass along for drivers who are being approached (in EITHER direction) by an emergency vehicle with lights flashing and sirens wailing.
In my years as a first responder, I have seen many reactions to people who cannot seem to grasp this concept. I’ve seen drivers stop dead in the middle of the road, pull to the left, speed up and try to beat us to the next turn-off, and the worse one yet…make a turn right in front of the responding vehicle. I truly don’t know what some people are thinking when they perform some of those behaviors that I mentioned, but I can tell that we are talking directly to them from inside our vehicles when they do occur. Decorum prohibits me from giving you the details, but I can assure you that the comments are not complimentary towards the other driver.
There is no real breakdown of age group or genders with this problem either as it is spread across the board. I’ve seen people driving while texting, gabbing on the phone or plainly; just in daze. We’ve witnessed drivers who will angrily drive around another vehicle who has complied by pulling to the right and others who will try to make that turn into the fast food establishment before we get too close. Really? You’d die for that bacon burger?
The sobering fact is that in one year there are averages of 14,000 collisions involving fire/EMS vehicles nationwide…now add in law enforcement crashes; thousands of injuries and hundreds killed (including several dozens of fire/EMS and law enforcement officers). I can’t provide a break-down of who was at fault for these crashes, but I’d be willing to wager that many were as a result of inattentive or confused drivers.
We instruct our apparatus operators in defensive driving measures and accident avoidance. Our rigs are heavy and hard to stop in an instance. By law, we have to drive with “due regard” to other vehicles on the roadway and to bust a myth, there are no special laws that give us permission to run red lights without stopping or speed down the road haphazardly. Emergency vehicle drivers have been held responsible for causing accidents and were convicted, even sentenced to prison in some cases for injuring or causing deaths in vehicle crashes.
We’re not immune from the law and we do everything that we possibly can to get to wherever we are needed in a timely fashion. You can help us out by the following some these principles:
- Stay calm.
- Pull to the right and come to a complete stop.
- If you are traveling on a high-speed road or if there is no room to stop, slow down as much as possible.
- If you are in the left lane, pull over into the right lane as traffic in the lane to your right moves over.
- If you cannot move to the right because of another vehicle or obstacle, just stop. Your action will let the driver of the emergency vehicle know what you are doing and allow the driver to anticipate where to drive.
- When an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind while you are stopped at an intersection, stay where you are unless you can pull to the right.
- On a 4-lane highway or street without barriers, both sides of traffic should pull to the right.
- Be careful when driving by or around a motor vehicle accident or any situation where emergency vehicles are parked and the firefighters are working.
- Drivers should stay at least 500 feet behind emergency vehicles.
- Do not panic.
- Do not play your radio so loudly that you are unable to hear sirens.
- Do not stop in the middle lane when there is room to pull to the right.
- Do not pull to the left in the center lane or left turn lane.
- Do not race ahead to make the green light or turn before the emergency vehicle gets there.
- Do not turn quickly to the left onto a street or driveway.
- Do not drive through a red light or stop sign when an emergency vehicle approaches from behind.
- If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite direction of a divided highway or street, you do not need to pull over.
- Do not disregard the presence of the emergency vehicle by continuing to drive.
In the provided link to the video, our friends at the Tuscaloosa Fire & Rescue Service in Alabama produced a video that has been very popular on YouTube. I’m sure that every firefighter I know would love to be the Captain in the back of the kid’s car, but I can tell you for a fact that we’ve all uttered the words of the two in the ambulance.
Please Move To the Right, To the Right, To the Right…
Stay Safe…Stay Cool