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Road Safety

4 Things Drivers Can Do to Help Firefighters

Ladenburg Law   /   August 27, 2019

sharing the road with Emergency vehicles

In his 15 years of service as a Washington State firefighter, Terry has been on thousands of calls. We recently sat down with him to hear his thoughts about what drivers can do to help firefighters.

These simple things can make a big difference to keep everyone safe. Please keep them in mind when you hear those sirens or come upon an emergency scene.

Don’t Follow Emergency Vehicles.

Give fire engines and emergency vehicles reasonable distance. Remember, first responders are processing a lot of information inside that rig. They may be talking to dispatch about the call, determining what supplies they need, and figuring out the fastest way to get there. If you are following the rig too close, you are creating an extra distraction that they have to adjust to.

It might seem like that fire truck knows where it’s headed, but that’s not always the case. Fire engines may need to make sudden turns or stops. Don’t make emergency vehicles adjust to your driving – give them as much space as possible.

Please Pull Over – and Stop.

When you hear those sirens or see those lights, please pull over and stop.

Many times, cars don’t come to a complete stop. Often, drivers will use the situation to their advantage. A common offense Terry sees is drivers following rigs to cross an intersection so they don’t miss their light. Other times, a car might continue traveling past a row of stopped cars before pulling over. This is more than poor etiquette – it’s frustrating to first responders who now have to slow down and adjust to you.

Allow Emergency Vehicles Room to Pass.

While you need to pull over and stop for emergency vehicles, pay attention to where you are stopping. Consider a roundabout. In this scenario, you may need to turn onto a side street before stopping. The reason? A rig is much, much bigger than the standard vehicle and requires more space. Terry has struggled navigating fire engines between stopped cars and medians.

Before stopping, make sure to leave enough room for emergency vehicles to pass.

Respect Emergency Scenes. (It’s the law!)

Above all, please use common sense and respect when approaching an emergency scene. Some offenses Terry has had to deal with in his line of work include:

  • Driving over hoses. Never drive over a fire hose! For safety reasons, firefighters will have to put the hose out of commission. Not only is this an expense to the department, it could put lives at jeopardy. (Plus, you’ll likely receive a very sizeable fine.)
  • Avoid blocked off roads and areas. One time, Terry and his crew had blocked off a road due to a gas leak. To their amazement, a car went past the vehicles, driving up onto a sidewalk. This could have been a very dangerous situation as the car’s heated exhaust could’ve triggered an explosion. While you might not understand what the emergency is, respect that there’s good reason if a road has been blocked. (It’s also worth noting that you can actually get charged with a gross misdeamenor for driving into an area marked off as emergency zone.)
  • Slow your speed at emergency scenes. If you see an accident off to the side of the freeway, watch out for pedestrians. There may also be debris on the roadway. Give first responders room to work and proceed with caution. If caught speeding in an emergency zone, you could face a hefty ticket.
  • Follow first responders’ instructions, even if you don’t see the emergency. John shared that emergencies may not be obvious at first glance. What might appear to you as a simple rear-ender could be a medical emergency. An area could be blocked off to search for a hurt or lost child. Firefighters might be addressing downed power lines you wouldn’t see until you drove past the cones they’d set up. Trust their expertise. They are trying to keep you safe!

A Final Reminder

It may feel like an inconvenience to have to pull over, slow down, or change your route to accommodate emergency vehicles. But Terry would like to remind you that he and his crew are attending to emergency situations. Remember, the call they are headed on? Could be to assist your friend or family member.

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