Doing the right thing can save a life
I was recently talking to new instructors when they asked how I get ideas for these articles. Most of the time I get ideas from people I speak with and from the media reports of crashes. Other times I see something happen and I take a photo of it. Keeping my camera handy always helps. The down side of that is I’ve missed opportunities because I’m often in motion and don’t have a passenger who can take the photo. However, this particular time, I didn’t miss the opportunity.
While I was driving along the freeway one late afternoon, I spotted an emergency vehicle with their siren blasting and their lights flashing. They were coming up behind me, but were well back. I was in the centre of 3 lanes as I had just passed an onramp to the freeway. There was plenty of space to my left, so I pulled on the left shoulder. Doesn’t the law say to pull to the right? I pulled to the left because it was open and the right side was blocked. I also decided to pull to the left because at the time, the fire truck was closer to the right side of the freeway.
I was able to pull over, stop and put on my hazard lights before the fire truck got me. That was mainly because I checked my mirror often and had the radio volume low enough that I can still hear what’s going on around me. The bonus in this situation was that I had time to grab my camera and take a picture of drivers who were still slowing the fire truck from getting to their destination. Why couldn’t they pull over as early as I and the drivers ahead of me did? Didn’t the other drivers hear the sirens or see the flashing lights?
Being alert while driving is always important. Listening for the sirens and looking for the flashing lights is an important part of helping our emergency services. Look well ahead while driving; a couple of blocks in the city and about a km or mile on the freeway or highway will help you spot these vehicles early. Using your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds will also let you know if they are approaching from behind. When checking your mirror, check to see, not only the vehicle directly behind, but also a few vehicles behind you. Scanning intersections can also help you spot these emergency vehicles when they’re getting close to your location from other roads.
Seeing the emergency vehicles may be one thing, but knowing what to do and doing it early is another thing. Even though the law says to pull to the right and stop, common sense must also be used. If the emergency vehicle is on the right side of the road, do the opposite and move to the left. Whichever side of the road you pull to, put on your hazard lights so the paramedics, police officers and fire fighters can see you’re staying where you are. This will also help the drivers near you know what you’re doing and may also move over and stop.
It’s up to you to help the emergency vehicles reach their destinations safely and in as short of time as possible. Delaying them because of your lack of awareness could cause someone to lose their life or become dangerously injured. Look for them and respond early. Give them a chance to go around you and to know you’re out of their way. Respond early because seconds can save.