Shortly after leaving work yesterday, the distinct blue lights of an ambulance caught my attention. It was approaching quickly so I proceeded to slow down and pulled in allowing room for them to pass. With the ambulance ahead of me I witnessed what could only be described as panic. Some came to a complete stop by slamming on their brakes while others dangerously mounted footpaths and kerbs close to pedestrians. I began to wonder to what extent motorists are trained or prepared to react appropriately in these situations.
Emergency vehicles must get to the scene as quickly as possible and sometimes they can face several dangers in just getting there. Since time is of the essence, it’s critical that motorists and other road users know what to do so they don’t delay any emergency vehicles.
revealed that between the years 2007 to 2011, there was a total of 54 accidents involving emergency vehicles. As a result of these accidents, 81 people were injured and 2 people were killed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) in the U.S. use the acronym SIREN to help drivers remember what to do in these situations. SIREN stands for:
When you notice the emergency vehicle keep the noise in the car to a minimum so you can hear if other emergency vehicles are nearby. Turning the radio down and opening the window can help. Observe the nearby roads for other emergency vehicles.
Check all your mirrors and surrounding areas, if the emergency vehicle is approaching from behind try to estimate the speed of the vehicle and plan your next move. Look out for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users.
React quickly and scan all directions again before you move. Slow down and pull over if possible. Make sure you indicate the direction you intend to go and double check that you have given enough space for the vehicle to get through.
The next step is to re-enter the road. Scan in all directions and ensure that the road is free before merging and indicate. Keep an eye out for additional emergency vehicles.
A few things to avoid:
- Stopping at places that don't give the emergency vehicles enough room to go through.
- Trying to outpace or cut across an emergency vehicle.
- Tail gating emergency vehicles.
- Slamming on your brakes or swerving violently.
Next time an emergency vehicle approaches try to remember the SIREN