Failing to yield to emergency vehicles could put others at risk - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Failing to yield to emergency vehicles could put others at risk

If an ambulance or fire truck is coming up behind you with its lights and sirens blazing, would your reaction be to panic or step on the gas?

The correct answer to both of these options is no, and that's exactly what we saw drivers doing when we put our America Now team in the passenger's seat with first responders who were heading to emergency calls. 

From slamming on the brakes to nearly slamming into oncoming traffic, dangerous drivers are just one more thing first responders deal with every day.

"We're not driving down the road with lights and sirens for fun," said Fire Captain Chris Bradley with the Charlotte Fire Department.

"We're doing it because somebody called and needs our help," Bradley said. "In the greater order of things, where you're going is not more important than where we're going."

When firefighters are driving to an emergency call, it takes longer to get there when someone else hits the break pedal in panic, forcing a 22-ton fire truck to do the same.

"Anything that delays that care could be the difference between life and death," said Don Overcash, who works as a supervisor with the Mecklenburg EMS Agency in Charlotte, NC.

The rule is, if you see an emergency vehicle's lights and hear the sirens, you should drive all the way to the right side of the road, and come to a complete stop. While most drivers comply with this rule, there are some who don't.    

Overcash says he wishes drivers would "...take a minute to realize they're putting themselves in jeopardy, and they're putting us in jeopardy by making it very difficult for us to do our jobs."

When drivers don't move over, first responders often have to pull into oncoming lanes to look for a clearing. That's why traffic on both sides of the road must move to the right and stop.

This, however, does not mean drivers should play "chicken" with oncoming cars, which is what we saw repeatedly during our ride with firefighters.  

"The best thing you can do, if you can't move over, is don't move," Bradley said.

Instead, wait for a green light or an open space to pull over.  

While you are waiting for an emergency vehicle to pass you, they suggest you get off your cell phone and get your eyes on the road.

During our ride, we saw a woman who was chatting away on her cell phone while the fire truck we were in attempted to make a turn. This driver wasn't the only one we observed talking on a phone.

"Rubberneckers," the term used to describe drivers who slow down and nearly break their neck to look at an accident scene, also pose problems for emergency workers.   

While firefighters were assisting victims at one accident, paramedics witnessed another crash occur nearby because a driver tried to get a glance at what was happening. 

Motorists are supposed to give up a lane and slow down to give first responders more room to render aid at an accident scene.   

"It's one of the most dangerous conditions and we're at the mercy of the people," said Overcash.

Drivers taking a closer look at an accident scene have led to a lot of close calls. 

"I've been carrying hand tools, and had a car pass so close it knocked the tools out of my hand," Bradley recalled. 

Distracted drivers start causing problems even before responders can pull onto the road.

Despite lights flashing and sirens blazing, motorists still buzz right by the men and women who suit up to save lives.

First responders are asking motorists to just move over. It only takes a minute to cross the white line and stop momentarily when someone else is waiting on a firefighter or paramedic's help.

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