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Safety Tips: Move Aside for Emergency Vehicles

Every year in the United States there are nearly 16,000 accidents involving fire rescue vehicles responding to emergencies. Not only do these accidents cause many severe and sometimes even fatal injuries to both firefighters and civilians, they also result in significant delays putting rescuers at the original emergency scene. A new unit, from farther away, has to respond to the original emergency, and several others have to respond to the new emergency involving the rescuers themselves.

We’ve all seen those drivers out there who just blatantly give no regard to the laws that govern our roads and who don’t care one bit about those crucial seconds that someone’s life might be saved or end.

Some drivers are unaware of Florida law, which states clearly: “Pedestrians and drivers must yield the right-of-way to law enforcement cars, fire engines and other emergency vehicles using sirens and/or flashing lights.”

Other drivers don’t even notice the emergency vehicle until it is practically up against the rear bumper blowing on the air horn. And then they just panic and do the wrong thing or nothing at all.

This is a frequent problem now that technology has produced cars that shut out virtually all outside noise and contain sound systems that turn the word “loud” into something you can actually feel from a hundred feet away. But most significantly, technology has also produced the most offensive distracter on the roads today: the cell phone.

Here are some tips on how to move aside for emergency vehicles:

  • Don’t play your radio so loud that you can’t hear what’s going on outside.
  • If you are approaching an intersection and hear sirens, stop before the intersection and look in all directions to locate the vehicle. If the emergency vehicle is coming from your front or sides, just remain stopped until it completely passes. Never block the intersection.
  • If you hear sirens but don’t see the emergency vehicle, slow down and check your mirrors to see if it’s approaching from behind you.
  • If so, don’t panic. Look around and decide which edge of the road is closest to you and then immediately put on your blinker to indicate that you are headed in that direction.
  • Continue to move carefully in the direction you’ve chosen until you are out of the way and then stop.
  • Don’t pull back onto the road until the emergency vehicle has completely passed by you.
  • Never attempt to follow an emergency vehicle after it has passed in order beat the traffic (you know exactly what I’m talking about!) Not only is this illegal, it is also very dangerous since emergency vehicles often make sudden stops and turns.
  • When you are running late or feeling stressed-out, yielding for emergency vehicles might seem like just another irritant in your day, but it’s nothing compared to whatever situation the rescuers are trying to reach. Keep in mind, one day it might be you or someone you care about in a life-threatening situation, waiting for help to arrive.