Can you help save a life?
As seen in The Driver magazine in the May/June 2009 issue.
How You Can Help Save a Life
By Scott Marshall
As a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada over the past 21 years, I’ve been in the car with many people, as can be well expected. Many people feel that my job can be a dangerous one. However, I don’t feel that way at all, as I’m always in control of the situation. I won’t let my students take any risks and I plan the routes we take.
But there is another type of a job that I consider to be quite dangerous though; the job of driving emergency vehicles through traffic. Especially since some drivers do not know what to do when they see an emergency vehicle approaching. This can be very problematic with dire outcomes for all parties concerned.
So this has led me to start examining how many people really know what to do if they would see an emergency vehicle rapidly approaching with their lights flashing and sirens blaring. Would you know how to respond? Would it be an immediate response or latent reaction that might trying to just ignore them approaching?”
According to the law, if there’s an emergency vehicle approaching toward you, in any direction, you must pull over and stop to let them pass. Stopping is a good idea, as long as you don’t block a driveway, intersection or their direct path. This is a tough enough job for our emergency service people without you slowing them down by being oblivious to their needs.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen many drivers do the proper thing by signaling, pulling over and stopping, but there have been many drivers that haven’t. It only takes a few seconds to pull over and let them pass before you can pull back and continue your travels. Those few seconds can save a life. Maybe of someone you know. Besides, if you pull over and stop, perhaps the drivers around you would do the same thing. Maybe they’ll “follow the leader”.
The other day while I was out with my kids, I saw a frustrated ambulance driver having to wait for 3 vehicles to enter and exit the intersection before they could get through. They had their siren blaring and their lights flashing, but drivers continued to go through the intersection. Why would they do that? Couldn’t they see the ambulance? Couldn’t they see the lights flashing or hear the sirens? Did they even care that the life of someone was on the line?
Sadly, on the same night I saw another unfortunate incident with the ambulance. While returning home with my kids, I saw another ambulance try to make it through a different intersection. It seems to surprise many drivers when an emergency vehicle approaches them with their lights flashing and their sirens on, but why? We learn this in school and it was on the written test when we all got our driver’s license. What ever happened to common sense?
While I was out with a student years ago on a 4 lane one way street we witnessed pure confusion from a driver. We were in the far left lane as an emergency vehicle was approaching us from behind with their lights flashing and sirens blaring. My student and I pulled to the left curb, put on our hazard lights and stopped. The driver directly ahead of us did 3 lane changes so they could pull to the curb on their right and stop. Once the emergency vehicle passed us, they did 3 more lane changes to their left so they could return to their original lane. Why would they do this? How easy would it have been to move 1 metre to their left and stop?
There are drivers who try to do the proper thing, but end up making things worse. The law says to pull over to the right and stop, but common sense has to be used as well. I ask my students to pull over to the closest, safest curb and stop. On a two way street we’re always talking about the right lane, but on a one way street, it could be either side. Choose the side the emergency vehicle is the farthest away from and easiest for you to reach.
As drivers, we also need to realize that a traffic island down the centre of the entire road means you won’t need to pull over and stop. The traffic island blocks the emergency vehicle from crossing; therefore, you won’t be blocking their path of travel. This means you can continue your trek along the road without having to pull over and stop.
In order to help our emergency response teams reach their destinations safely, we need to follow some safety tips; and they are as follows;
Check your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. If you notice the flashing lights of the emergency vehicle, signal and pull over immediately.
Keep your stereo volume low enough to hear any sirens. By being able to hear easily, you can be made aware of the situation sooner.
Look well ahead up the road. This will help you spot the emergency vehicle approaching you sooner, so you can respond earlier.
And finally, scan intersections as you approach them. This will allow you to notice not just drivers who may enter your path, but our emergency vehicles on their way to save a life.
We need to help all drivers reach their destinations, but especially those driving police, ambulatory and fire fighting vehicles. By being observant enough to notice them early, you’ll have plenty of time to respond safely. Perhaps with this awareness, you may help save a life!