Are Uninformed Drivers Slowing Down Emergency Vehicles? - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Are Uninformed Drivers Slowing Down Emergency Vehicles?

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Drivers should move to the right when emergency vehicles approach Drivers should move to the right when emergency vehicles approach
8 EMS Personnel have died in crashes on calls so far in 2013 8 EMS Personnel have died in crashes on calls so far in 2013

Southside Fire EMS hit the streets on about 49,000 calls last year alone.

35,000 of those are considered emergencies.

You hear the sirens, see the truck, but what do you do next?  

Surprisingly, when it comes to emergency vehicles, most drivers have no idea about the rules of the road.  

How big of a problem is it?  

In 2013 alone, 8 EMS drivers were killed during a crash while on call. Many of those because drivers don't know the rules of the road.

"It can be very dangerous if you don't pay attention, you just breeze through those lights," said Kari Rodriguez, of Southside Fire EMS.

Kari Rodriguez has been an Southside Fire EMT for seven years.  Every shift she hits the road to help save lives with a lot on her mind.

"The driver not only has to look out for the surroundings outside the truck, but what we are doing in the back as well," said Rodriguez.

But it's what other drivers are doing that makes her job tougher.

"It's hard to hear until they are up close," explained Rodriguez. "And they are all of a sudden you hear that and you are kind of startled and you stop."

The average time a Southside Fire EMS unit takes to get to a medical call is 5-8 minutes.  That's below the national average of 10 minutes, and for paramedics, speed means everything.
"The extra two minutes can mean a lot," said Kari. "Especially to that person we are trying to get to. Time matters with every call we have."
But how bad it is out there?  The only way to find out is be in the front seat.

"I have a hot EMS call, E Park Ave."

Driving down Abercorn street, a few drivers get the picture and move to the right, just like they are supposed to do. So far, so good.  

The patient is evaluated and put inside, headed to Memorial Medical Center. The trip back, however, not quite as easy.

"They just don't know what to do," said the EMT.

Pedestrians keep walking, some drivers move to the right, others to the left, some decide that the rules of the road suddenly don't apply.

"That guy just ran a red light," points out Rodriguez.

And some just stop, blocking everything.

"Most common thing. They just stop right in front of you," explained Kari. "We have to watch for that a lot because we don't want to hit you. Trying to stop those big buses, we can't stop on a dime."

Drivers also do the wrong thing to move quickly, like get in the opposite lanes of traffic, and potentially become the next accident victim.

"They just think ambulance, sirens, just move out of the way. That's not the case."

"What would you tell people who get angry?"
"It could be their loved ones or good friends. I would hope they would take that into consideration. Please take care of them. Let me go, get out of the way."

So what are the rules?  

It's simple, move right.  

The ambulance wants to move to the left side, so if you move to the right, no one has to stop.  

At a light, if it's green, go through it to open the path for emergency vehicles.

Whatever you do, don't stop when that siren comes on. EMS drivers say that's how accidents happen.

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